March 19, 2011

How to Treat a Gift Horse

Marion Bartoli should have gone home several days ago. The fifteenth seed in Indian Wells was down a set to Kim Clijsters in the fourth round when the Australian Open champion was forced to retire with a shoulder injury. And the feisty Frenchwoman was not about to let the opportunity pass her by.

Having already beating a tough Andrea Petkovic in the previous round -- on paper, the way things should have turned out, but given the way the German has been playing, kind of an upset -- she faced another scare in the quarters against Ana Ivanovic. Battling through heat, sickness and an opponent who actually controlled much of the match, Bartoli was somehow the first to hold serve in the fourth game. The two traded breaks throughout the second set, and when the 2007 Wimbledon finalist failed to serve it out, you might have expected momentum to shift, but after over two hours she was the one who came away with a straight-set win.

She had a somewhat easier task in the semis, steamrolling over Yanina Wickmayer in the first set and quickly rebounding after dropping serve to open the second. For her efforts she was the first to reach the championships match in the desert, her first final since 2009.

There she'll face world #1 Caroline Wozniacki, who leads the pair's head-to-head 4-2. The runner-up here last year has had a similarly impressive run in Indian Wells, staying tough after losing a set to Alisa Kleybanova in the fourth round and walloping former champion Maria Sharapova in the semis. She broke the one-time ace-launcher six times in the match, while she herself only missed ten first serve attempts. After about eighty minutes she had earned the right to try going one better than her performance last year.

Bartoli may not have the best record against her Wozniacki -- she lost all three of her meetings before Caro even broke into the top twenty -- but she did get a solid straight-set victory over the then-#3 in Cincinnati last year. And she'a beaten players like Vera Zvonareva and Venus Williams for titles before. Given the luck she's having, I wouldn't be surprised if Marion found a way to get it done again.

After all when you receive a gift like she did, you shouldn't ask questions -- just accept it and take as much advantage of it as you can.

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