Just over a month after capturing her first career Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Marion Bartoli shocked the tennis world with an abrupt retirement announcement Wednesday night in Ohio.
Bartoli suffered a three-set second-round loss at the hands of rising Romanian Simona Halep at the Western & Southern Open in Mason (just outside Cincinnati), and shortly thereafter was wiping away the tears at a post-match news conference where she dropped the retirement bomb.
At only 28 years of age, most assumed that Bartoli had plenty of tennis left in the tank, especially since she's ranked seventh in the world and seemed to still be in the prime of her career.
Little did most know, Bartoli had been playing with and through pain for a long time, and that was no different during her most-recent Wimbledon run in late June/early July, which culminated with a victory over big-serving German Sabine Lisicki in the ladies' final on the chewed-up grass at the legendary All England Club.
"Well, it's never easy, and obviously there is never a time to say it or whatever, but that was actually the last match of my career," Bartoli said at the presser. "It's time for me to retire and to call it a career. I feel it's time for me to walk away actually."
Lisicki chimed in on Twitter about the retirement.
"You've had an unbelievable career & made your dream come true! Wishing you ALL the best girl!"
Bartoli took a month off after achieving her Wimbledon glory before returning to action in Toronto last week, only to retire from a third-round match due to an abdominal injury.
"I've been already through a lot of injuries since the beginning of the year," she said. "I've been on the tour for so long, and I really push through and leave it all during that Wimbledon. I really felt I gave all the energy I have left inside my body. I made my dream a reality and it will stay forever with me, but now my body just can't cope with everything."
Former world No. 1 Belgian stalwart Kim Clijsters also Tweeted.
"Crazy to wake up hearing about @bartoli_marion retiring but understand the feeling... Congrats on a great career!"
Bartoli captured eight titles on the WTA circuit and was a runner-up at 11 other events, including Wimbledon back in 2007.
She decided she would go out on top rather than struggle to compete at way less than 100 percent ... like she did at Wimbledon 2013.
"That was probably the last little bit of something that was left inside me. It's fine I have the right to do something else as well. I've been playing for a long, long time, and it's time for me now. It is."
Bartoli is uncertain about her immediate future.
"There are so many things to do in life rather than play tennis, so I'm sure I will find something," she said. "I just need a bit of time to kind of settle down."
The 5-foot-7 French slugger was a fixture in the top 20 for the last eight years, including a pair of year-end top-10 finishes in 2007 (10th) and 2011 (9th). She finished 11th in the world in 2009 and last year, when she failed to title, but was a two-time tournament runner-up.
Bartoli's father, Walter, who had coached her for her entire career until earlier this year (replaced by fellow Frenchwoman and former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo), modeled her two-fisted attack after that of the great Monica Seles.
She promptly called her father following the sudden retirement announcement.
"I said, 'You know what, dad, I think it's my last one."' "And he said, 'I kind of felt it. I kind of knew it somehow. I can see it in your eyes and see your body and know all the work you have done to make it happen. I'm so proud of you. I will support you in anything you're doing.'
A medical doctor by trade, Walter, who had no background in tennis, introduced Marion to tennis at the age of six. She would practice tennis with him late at night after school on small, icy, unevenly surfaced courts that restricted free movement and influenced her playing style. He devised unique training methods, such as improving hand-eye coordination by using balls of different size and color, and encouraging his talented daughter to stay on her toes by taping tennis balls to the heels of her shoes. He drove hundreds of miles to tournaments while she would do her homework in the back seat of the car.
Bartoli, who claims to have an IQ of 175, higher than that of Plato, Beethoven, and Albert Einstein, is an articulate and thoughtful person, best known for her unorthodox style of play, quirky on-court antics, intensity and enthusiasm.
She lost to former world No. 1 Venus Williams in that '07 Wimbledon finale, but famously beat then-standing No. 1 Justine Henin in the semifinals. And just last month, Bartoli captured the Wimbledon title without dropping a set, becoming the sixth player in the Open Era to do so, all the while improving to 28-10 lifetime at The Championships.
But just before the start of the Cincy tourney, Bartoli told reporters, "I feel like if I have to retire by tomorrow because something happened to me, I would be able to say that I have done everything I wanted to do and this is the best feeling ever.
"My dreams now are outside of tennis. It's different. When I'll be retired, it's to have a nice family, to have a nice husband. But tennis-wise, I achieved my dream."
Bartoli, who will turn 29 on Oct. 2, earned more than $11 million in career prize money.
Former American tennis star turned broadcaster, Pam Shriver, Tweeted, "If I had ever won Wimbledon singles I would have retired ASAP. She always did things in her own style!!! Marion go live happily ever after."
Bartoli Tweeted, "Hey to all of u! 4:55 am can't sleep of course, reading all your sweet messages, and it makes me cry, thank u for sending me all this love"
Who has the highest IQ on the women's tour now?
Good luck, Marion!