Bartoli: Federer is like an opera or ballet on court

Marion Bartoli feels that the natural process of ageing affects everyone and Roger Federer is no exception.

Marion Bartoli at the unveiling of the French Open trophies, in New Delhi, on Sunday.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams are two of the greatest tennis players ever, and their legion of fans includes those who are stars in their own right. Among them is former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, who is in town as the brand ambassador for the Rendezvous à Roland Garros programme to identify young talent.

Federer won the last of his 17 Grand Slam titles so far at Wimbledon in 2012, but Bartoli, speaking to The Hindu, insists that there is no one who can match the Swiss ace.

“You cannot possibly say that (he is past his prime). Roger will be one of the greatest — may be The Greatest — tennis champion of all time,” she asserts.

“What he’s been able to accomplish, where he’s put the sport at, how elegant and graceful he is on court, how beautiful he is to watch — it’s almost like an opera or ballet on court when he’s playing. I just can’t turn off the TV when he is on air, there is no one like him,” the 31-year-old Frenchwoman gushes.

She adds that the natural process of ageing affects everyone, and Federer is no exception.

“When you are 33 or 34, it is difficult to compete against someone like Novak Djokovic; Yes, obviously! That’s natural. But that doesn’t mean you can say he is a spent force. I have way too much respect to even offer one negative comment about Roger.”

“Djokovic is younger, so he can play longer, just like Roger 7-8 years ago. Probably someone seven years younger will take over from Novak in a few years’ time and then again people will say Novak’s finished. But no! That doesn’t happen. Roger has put the game so high and elevated it to another level, just like Rafael (Nadal) did it on clay,” she says.

As for Serena, Bartoli believes the American is still so much in control that it is unfair to even start thinking about tennis after her, despite her shock defeat in the final of the Australian Open this year.

“I don’t think you can say that after that one defeat. That match was so, so close, it could have gone either way. But Serena is still dominating women’s tennis massively. There is competition but no one is close to her, at the moment,” Bartoli says.

The 2013 Wimbledon champion, however, refrains from commenting on the match-fixing controversy that is plaguing world tennis at the moment.

“Well, you are speaking of an unknown who has played against an unknown in an unknown tournament. There are just no facts, so up until we come across some real names and facts, I can’t comment on something that is completely up in the air.”

“But now on the women’s Tour, the WTA is doing an educational programme and telling players that this may happen and this is how you react to it,” she said.

Bartoli also unveiled the clay-court Grand Slam’s winners’ trophies at the programme here on Sunday.

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