Marion Bartoli has announced that she will return to the tour in March next year, almost five years after quitting tennis because of persistent injuries.
Bartoli has spent recent seasons commentating for Eurosport and other broadcasters, while playing the occasional legends match when time allows. But she is still only 33 years old, and as the Williams sisters have proved, age need be no bar to achievement in this sport.
“I am coming back this year on the professional tour,” Bartoli announced in a video posted on her Instagram page. “It’s going to be a huge challenge. I have still a lot of practice ahead of me, but I am hoping to be ready for March and the Miami Open.”
Venus Williams overcame her in the final, and had to wait six years for another shot. But when it came, she was ruthless in her dismissal of Sabine Lisicki, the big-serving German.
Bartoli announced only a few weeks later that her career was over. “My body just can’t cope with everything,” she said. “I have pain everywhere after 45 minutes or an hour after play.”
Since retiring, Bartoli has remained a high-profile figure, mainly through her media work, but also because of the illness that caused her to lose weight dramatically in 2016.
In an interview with the presenters of This Morning, she said that she had contracted a mystery virus during a trip to India. As a result, she suffered allergic reactions – set off by “anything from food to electrical items” – and her health declined so dramatically that her hair started falling out in clumps. According to the interview, doctors told her that she was “on the brink of dying”.
In recent months, however, Bartoli has made a strong recovery, to the point where she feels a comeback is feasible. She had previously floated the idea in a tantalising Twitter message in 2015, saying “Coming back or not coming back to tennis? What do you think? Should I?”
On that occasion, Bartoli opted not to take the plunge, perhaps because the reality of a professional training schedule seemed too onerous. Two years on, however, she may have drawn extra motivation from the power vacuum at the top of women’s tennis.
Serena Williams’s plans for 2018 remain a mystery, while the younger generation has yet to throw up a player who can sustain tournament-winning form from one week to the next. The opportunities are there for anyone with the talent and determination to take them.