Marion Bartoli reached her second Wimbledon final as the biggest day of Kirsten Flipkens’ career ended in a heavy defeat.
Runner-up to Venus Williams six years ago, Frenchwoman Bartoli earned a shot at either Sabine Lisicki or Agnieszka Radwanska on Saturday with a 6-1 6-2 victory on Centre Court.
Belgian Flipkens was encouraged by a crowd that was willing for a contest to break out, but it was one-sided throughout and 15th seed Bartoli slumped to the turf on sealing her win as her achievement sank in.
This was new ground for Flipkens, who has taken a decade to deliver on the talent she showed when landing the 2003 Wimbledon and US Open junior titles.
In this week last year she was winning a clay-court tournament in Middelburg, Holland. Her reward? Precisely $2,940.
Today she was guaranteed £400,000 and would double that by reaching the final. The champion pockets £1.6m – a sum that dwarves Flipkens’ entire career earnings.
A glasses-wearer, Flipkens was attired in bug-like shades today, with a bright white headband and matching knee strapping accessorising her outfit.
She cut a distinctive figure, but the fairytale prospect of lifting the trophy on Saturday looked exactly that when Bartoli broke serve in the opening game of the second set, and held for a 2-0 lead.
Flipkens had been seen by the trainer between sets, seemingly due to a knee problem.
The crowd was willing her on, Wimbledon having been seduced by her tale of career resurrection. The clots in her calf could have killed Flipkens, she was told, had she boarded a flight to Japan for a Fed Cup match.
A stinging smash from the baseline by Bartoli brought up two more break points in the third game, and, when Flipkens rattled a forehand into a net post, the end of her championships was in sight.
The Wimbledon spectators did not know what to make of Bartoli. Her eccentricities are no secret, and she was repeatedly swishing at thin air, rather as though she was preparing for a sword fight.
Her game was holding up, though, with Flipkens staying on the defensive – a policy that had done her few favours.
A blip in the form of a break came when Bartoli appeared to let her focus drift, however it was instantly returned and victory was soon snared.