2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli is on a comeback trail which will start at the Liverpool International, maybe take in this summer’s US Open – and hopefully end with another Grand Slam title in her 30s.
And if it doesn’t? Marion will just offer a Gallic shrug and put the attempt into proper perspective, because she has experienced the very worst that life can throw at her.
In the summer of 2016 she nearly died.
Just three years after scaling the very summit of her sport, and enjoying her sudden retirement from top level tennis, Marion was told that two more weeks on a tennis court, at any level, would have proved fatal.
Suddenly a potential first round exit to some up and coming youngster seemed inconsequential.
It was the summer of 2016, and Marion had been hoping to play in an exhibition doubles as a break from commentating duties.
The authorities at Wimbledon, however, had other ideas.
“I remember that day so vividly,” she said over the phone from her training base in Dubai.
“A few weeks earlier a doctor at Roland Garros who knows me said he was worried about my health, but I ignored him and then I went to Wimbledon where I was commentating.
“They asked me to undergo a check up. So I went to see a doctor and when she checked my heart-rate, that’s when they realised the urgency of getting me into hospital.
“I told them I needed to finish my work, that I couldn’t possibly pull out of my contract.
“But when they told me I couldn’t play that year, that the doctors really were worried, it was the worst day of my life.
“Back then the only thing which was joyful for me was to play tennis because the rest of my life was a bit of a nightmare.
“I couldn’t play anything, I couldn’t eat anything. I couldn’t do anything.
“I was so tired but I was looking forward to playing one or two matches on the grass where I had won the title just three years earlier.
“I just cried and cried and cried for hours.
“But when I went to the hospital the doctors told me that if I had waited two more weeks I would have gone. I would have died.
“My body would have not survived.”
Marion’s weight had plummetted from 165 to 114 pounds as a result of an abusive relationship with an unnamed boyfriend.
Perhaps weakened by that ordeal, she then contracted a virus while travelling in India, a version of swine flu which saw her endure a fever of 104 degrees for 15 straight days and her weight drop even more dangerously to 90 pounds.
But what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
And Marion has learned from that appalling experience.
“It will always be part of my life and that’s something I can draw a lot of experience from,” she added.
“I thought tennis was difficult but it was nothing compared to what I went through during that period.
“At the end of the day it will make me a lot stronger.
“That’s why I undertook the challenge to come back, because when you go through hell like this, when you come out the end of it you come back so much stronger. You have the strength to do something even bigger.
“I have a totally different perspective on tennis now compared to before.
“Also I appreciate even more what I used to be able to do.
“I can appreciate even more now that I was Wimbledon champion – that I won Wimbledon in 2013 and that I am a Wimbledon champion forever.
“What an incredible journey this has been.”
It is no understatement.
Marion is now up to eight-hour long training sessions in her Dubai base.
And while a week in Liverpool should lead to a Wimbledon Legends appearance, she has designs on Grand Slam action in America later this summer.
“I’m great now but it has taken quite a long time before I can feel back to full health and fitness,” Marion added.
“I guess I didn’t realise how serious my health problem was
“I can feel that I’m on track to be ready just before the US Open. That’s been my goal to play one or two events in the summer in America before the US Open and that should be the time when I’m in my peak shape.
“But you know when I started to train back in October I thought I would be ready quicker but my body just wasn’t ready at all to take the training that I am doing right now, which is training eight hours a day.
“I could only do two-and-a-half to three hours a day and it has taken many weeks and months to get to the regime I am doing right now. I am getting there.
“But if I want to compete at the highest level which I was at before I need to be in peak shape.
“There won’t be any shortcuts – I know that. I’m ready to go through all the pain and everything you have to go through to get there.
“I thought when I started in October, by March I would be there but when I lost all that weight I lost all my muscle mass too. I had to rebuild everything almost from scratch and it took me a long time.”
She is nearly there.
Beaten by Venus Williams in the 2007 Wimbledon final, six years later she blitzed Sabine Lisicki in straight sets to collect the famous Venus Rosewater Dish
“Can I get back to those levels? That’s the whole question!” she laughs.
“Of course I’m training to get back to these levels because I miss that level. But I don’t want to put an enormous amount of pressure on myself.
“I don’t want to say that would the only way to be a success.
“For me it would be a success if I could compete at that level again. When you can’t even compete in a Legends Doubles, if I could make it back there I would be happy.
“But I am a competitor and I won’t accept a defeat.
“I will try my hardest to win as many matches as possible but I think will be so happy to be back on the tour, to be back playing.
“I have a great team around me, we have a great chemistry and of course I would love to make some great results . …..but if it doesn’t happen I will still be forever a Wimbledon champion and that’s a really good item to have on my resume!”
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