Marion Bartoli is a world-class professional tennis player from France. She is well-known for playing aggressive Tennis with two-handed forehands and backhands. In this article I will take a quick look at her biography and then break down her game in detail.
A Strong Service Return Followed By A Forehand Winner
A Typical Combination For Bartoli!
Bartoli was born in 1984 in Le Puy en Velay, France. She started Tennis early at the age of 6 and had a very successful junior career. She reached a career high junior ranking of number 2 in the world in 2002. The highlight of her junior career though was winning the 2001 US Open Junior Championships!
Her father, Dr. Walter Bartoli, is her coach and it was also her father who convinced her to switch to playing two-handed on both sides after watching Monica Seles beat Steffi Graf at the French Open many years ago. She now plays with a custom-made racket that is a little bit longer than usual to improve her reach for those two-handed shots.
So far the highlights of her professional career include 6 WTA singles titles, reaching the Top 10 in the world, and reaching the finals of the 2007 Wimbledon Championships!
According to her own statement, Bartoli has an extraordinarily high IQ of 175!
Marion is a power hitter that likes to control the rallies from the baseline. In the highlight video below you can get a good idea of what her game is like!
Marion Bartoli versus Andrea Petkovic in Brisbane 2011
From a technical standpoint, Bartoli has very clean groundstrokes and an average serve!
Bartoli hits her forehand with two-hands on the grip which is extremely rare in Professional Tennis. The other player that was very successful with this is Monica Seles. It was also Seles who inspired Bartoli and especially her dad to use this technique!
Bartoli Hitting One Of Her Powerful Two-Handed Forehands!
Photo by Getty Images
This forehand works very well for her because she gets the key body positions right!
It doesn’t matter if you hit a one-handed or two-handed forehand but in order to hit a good forehand you need to have a good inside-out swing pattern and also get the other key body positions right!
Looking at the picture above you can see that Bartoli gets into a great inside position on her forehand with the arms close to the body so that she can then use them as a lever!
To learn more about the key body positions for great tennis strokes visit the Tennis Video Instruction page on this website!
Looking at her grip she has a good grip with the left or dominant hand on the backhand. The hand is behind the handle and not below it, which is extremely important for a good two-hander!
She has a rather unconventional grip with the bottom hand though. From the photo below my guess is that her index knuckle of the right hand is either on bevel 2.5 or bevel 3. The heel pad though is even further down. This kind of grip can only work if you hit a very left-hand dominant two-hander; which she does. I certainly wouldn’t teach it to anybody but it definitely works for her!
Bartoli Hitting A Powerful Backhand!
Photo by Getty Images
In the photo you can see that she has a very solid stance with her feet relatively wide apart and her upper body relatively straight. This allows her to use the entire body to generate power rather than just the arms, which is also a key for great groundstrokes!
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While watching plenty of video for this article I rarely saw Bartoli hit any slice backhands. I believe her slice is almost non-existent and she only uses it when on the dead run without any other options.
Developing a slice backhand would be a huge asset for her defensive game. She struggles to defend on the run and the slice would also give her time to get back in the court!
Marion does follow her good shots up to the net to finish off points which is very good and important for her. She also does not seem afraid at all to close in when she is up there which is also very good.
Unfortunately, she volleys on both sides with two hands. Volleying with two hands severely limits your reach and does not allow anyone to become a great net player!
With her game style it would a great help to be able to follow up even more of her offensive shots to the net and finish points there. She can only do this successfully though if she learns to hit solid one-handed volleys!
Marion has what I would consider an average serve. It does not win her many free points but it also does not allow her opponents to attack her too much!
I closely followed her first serve speeds in her 2011 Wimbledon match against Sabine Lisicki and her fastest serves were usually around 105 mph or roughly 169 kmh. These are not incredibly fast considering the fact that she is physically strong and can hit the ball extremely hard from the baseline!
Her motion has undergone some changes over the past years and from a technical standpoint there are several interesting things to look at in her service motion. She used to turn her shoulders away from the net a lot more in the beginning of her motion.
I don’t know whether she consciously went away from doing this but it is a mistake in my opinion. A good shoulder turn away from the body, resulting in a good separation angle between hips and shoulders, is a commonality among great servers.
Nevertheless it is the arm action that is the most important component for a good serve!
Looking at many videos of her serve I see some differences in her arm action as well. At times it appeared like she had a real stop or hitch at the end of the backswing and on other videos it looked rather fluid. In the following video from 2011 the arm action looks relatively fluid but certainly not the same kind of fluidity that great servers like Serena Williams have for example.
The Bartoli Serve
Marion Bartoli’s game is built around pressuring her opponents whenever possible. She stands in very close to the baseline and tries to take as many balls early as possible in order to hit offensive shots that are usually rather flat.
This strategy is great for her because she is not a very good mover and therefore any strategy that does not involve trying to get on offense as soon as possible wouldn’t make much sense for her!
As a result clay courts are not her favourite surface and she prefers to play on hard and grass.
She also uses a very offensive strategy when returning serves. On second serves she usually stands well inside the baseline trying to really put pressure on her opponents.
Check Out This Return Winner From Bartoli
Bartoli also doesn’t hesitate to come in to the net and finish points, which is great when you are an offensive player. Unfortunately her two-handed volleys are only good for putting easy shots away and don’t allow her to be a good overall net player.
Marion’s tactical weakness is her defensive game!
Not being such a great mover of course makes it difficult for her to play well defensively but I believe she could still improve the defensive aspect of her game a lot.
A shot that I rarely see from her is a neutralizing shot from a defensive position. These shots are extremely useful when you are slightly on defense but not on the dead run. Bartoli tends to either counter with fast flat shots from this situation, or when she can only get hand on the racket she tries to defend with moonballs.
I think she needs to develop something in between. A neutralizing shot that is not too high and not too low and allows her to get back in the rally when she is only slightly on defense would be a great addition to her game.
Developing a good slice backhand for defensive situations would also be a great addition to her tactical arsenal!
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Bartoli’s fitness used to be her biggest weakness. She was always one of the slowest movers among the world’s best players.
Critics argued that she needs to get in better shape and it appears that they were right!
Her fitness has improved a lot over the last few years though, and in 2011 she has mentioned this as the biggest reason for her improving results in many interviews.
My impression is that she is a hard-worker and she is willing to do what is necessary to succeed. Improving your fitness is a long-term matter and Bartoli also mentioned that she feels like her hard work over the past 2-3 years is now paying off.
If she continues to work on her fitness this well, than she can most likely be even fitter and better one or two years down the road!
She is known for her rather unique routines between points. In between points she likes to jump around on her feet a lot and practice using shadow swings. Check it out in the video below!
Marion Bartoli Between Points Routine
I believe these routines are great and can really help a player. The best players in the world usually use the same routines in between all points no matter what the score or situation is because it helps them stay emotionally balanced! Using practice swings is also great because it keeps you physically active and can help you keep your strokes clean technically.
Bartoli has also mentioned that she is now stronger mentally because of her improved fitness. I have mentioned this many times before on this website:
It is extremely difficult if not impossible to be mentally strong and confident if you are not in good physical shape!
Another good thing about Bartoli is that she seems to have a good fighting spirit. To me she appears like a real competitor that is ready to fight for the victory. This is of course a bit rare on the women’s tour and therefore a nice advantage for her!
Bartoli Displaying A Fist Pump After A Good Point
Photo by Getty Images
The areas that Marion Bartoli can improve in the most are the physical and tactical in my opinion. Therefore I came up with the following ranking for her:
The biggest thing for Marion Bartoli to work on
is her defensive game!
She mainly needs to learn to neutralize better when she is on the run. This means not always countering power with power but instead using some topspin shots with medium height but good depth in order to get back into rallies. Additionally, she should develop a defensive slice to give her more options in this area of the game!
She has already improved her fitness level quite a bit but further improving here would make life a lot easier for her and also allow her to play better defense!
From a technical standpoint it might be a good idea to work on hitting one-handed forehands when on the run. She seems to defend very poorly especially on the forehand side when she gets put under pressure and since she is right-handed it should be no problem to hit more of those shots with one-hand and a better reach!
Last but not least her serve could still be improved. The arm action could be a little more fluid and continuous and also she tends to open up too early with the upper body, which results in some lost power.