London: Marion Bartoli took an emotional trip down memory lane as she returned to Wimbledon on Sunday but the retired champion insisted she is at peace with her decision not to defend the title she won last year.
Bartoli quit aged 28 just a month after winning the first Grand Slam title of her career against Germany`s Sabine Lisicki at the All England Club. After toiling for so long to savour the sweet taste of success at a major, Bartoli, whose injury-ravaged body was already wearing down after years on tour, decided bowing out as a Wimbledon champion was the perfect end to her career.
Since then the flamboyant Frenchwoman has been focused on her new life off court, working to design a range of shoes and jewelry.
But, with Wimbledon due to get underway on Monday, Bartoli accepted the All England Club`s offer to take part in the traditional pre-tournament press conferences for last year`s champions. Back at the scene of her greatest triumph, Bartoli could have been forgiven for feeling the urge to pick up her racquet again, but she is adamant she could never contemplate returning to the tiring grind of dealing with constant injury problems.
"Look at my shoulder. Literally I can`t even lift my arm every morning. It was the same last year, and didn`t improve from a year after, even without playing much tennis," Bartoli told reporters.
"I don`t miss every morning having to wake up and not being able to lift my arm; having my whole body terribly sore."
"So definitely no regrets at all. I totally moved on into something different. I just launched my shoe line three weeks ago during the French Open. Designing jewelry, too.
"There are so many things going on in my life right now, but I`m just extremely honoured to be still the 2013 Wimbledon champion and reigning champion just for the next two weeks.
"What I miss the most is probably the last five seconds of my final, which is when I`m about to serve and I serve and I ace, knowing I won Wimbledon."
Bartoli has been too busy to miss her playing days for long as she cares for her father and longtime coach, Walter, who she says has been hospitalised because of an illness, while also working as a tennis commentator at various tournaments. In that role analysing the sport, she has had a good look at the next generation of emerging stars taking her place and she believes this year`s Wimbledon could be the launchpad for several promising talents.
"Obviously Eugenie Bouchard from Canada; Madison Keys; Garbine Muguruza. There are different players that can achieve great results on different surfaces," she added. "I think the new trend is these youngsters are coming out and are not afraid to beat the big players and the established players. When you see Serena Williams going out 6-2, 6-2 to Muguruza in a Grand Slam, that`s really not something we`re used to seeing maybe five or ten years ago.
"I think they`re really coming out fearless. They`re just kind of saying, `Well, we`re good enough and we`re going to show the world`."
Bartoli will be back at Wimbledon on Tuesday, only this time she will be sitting in the Royal Box watching Lisicki standing in for her on the day that the women`s champion traditionally starts the defence of her title.
"I think I`m invited into the Royal Box. If I don`t do anything stupid by Tuesday, I think I will be there," she said.