A tearful Sabine Lisicki suffered a harrowing case of stage fright as she gift-wrapped the Wimbledon title for France’s Marion Bartoli.
Lisicki had gained huge admiration for the way she beat last year’s champion Serena Williams earlier in the tournament, but today she pushed the self-destruct button in her first grand slam final, losing to 15th seed Bartoli 6-1 6-4 after an hour and 21 minutes on Centre Court.
At one point in the second set, the nervy German was so overcome with emotion that she shed tears as she blew the chance to be the first player from her country to win a grand slam singles event in 14 years.
Bartoli had endured a miserable 2013 before this fortnight. She failed to pass the third round of any tournament and her coaching relationship with her father Walter came to an end.
But she was a picture of delight this afternoon as she lifted the famous Venus Rosewater Dish on Centre Court after racing into the stands to hug Walter.
At the start of the match on a sun-baked afternoon, it looked as if it would be Bartoli, who had not won a major before today, that would throw away her chance at glory.
Bartoli reached the final here in 2007, but she seemed over-awed by the occasion at the beginning.
After taking her place on court in front of a number of the greats in the women’s game in the Royal Box, Bartoli double-faulted twice in a row to give Lisicki an early break.
Lisicki could not capitalise despite the big support she enjoyed from the crowd.
The German, who had become the darling of the tournament after beating Williams in the fourth round, allowed Bartoli to break her serve twice in a row after some wayward shots from the 23-year-old.
Lisicki lost her nerve again in the sixth game, double-faulting before sending a simple forehand long.
Serving, Bartoli won her game to love after Lisicki netted with a weak forehand that typified her whole first-set performance.
Lisicki finally held serve for the first time in the match and she had a chance to swing the momentum of the match in her favour in the second game of the second set.
Bartoli, the 15th seed, started muttering to herself angrily after a couple of unforced errors and a double fault, but Lisicki could not take advantage of the Frenchwoman’s mistakes as she spurned four break points.
Bartoli made her opponent pay in the following game with a break-point smash that put her 2-1 up.
Lisicki’s game crumbled in the fifth game when she double-faulted twice in a row. The German held her racket to her face and started crying as she was broken again to go 4-1 down.
Lisicki, serving to stay in the match, looked as if she had no belief left in the tank. She spooned a forehand wide at 15-30 to give Bartoli two championship points. The German saved both, and another after the game went to deuce, before she served out with a 114mph ace and yelled “Come on!”.
Serving to clinch the title, Bartoli lost her nerve for a change, allowing Lisicki to break. Now whipped up by the crowd, Lisicki was suddenly full of confidence.
Lisicki held to trail 5-4, but she found no answer to Bartoli’s power as she clinched the title in the following game by sending down an ace before sinking to her knees as the celebrations began.