Bartoli battles Stephens in roller coaster match

By Jim Fuller special to
NEW HAVEN - There was no earthquake for Marion Bartoli to deal with during her annual trek to New Haven this year, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t seen plenty of drama during the tournament so far.
Last year, she was nearly knocked off the chair she during an interview with local radio personality Bruce Barber when aftershocks of an earthquake in Virginia could be felt all along the Eastern seaboard. In 2012, the unpredictable issues for Bartoli came on the court.
Bartoli, playing in the New Haven main draw for the eighth straight year, seemingly had a routine path to the quarterfinals after taking the first set from American teen Sloan Stephens in a mere 21 minutes during the second round.
However, Stephens had no plans of going down without a fight setting the stage for one of the streakiest matches ever to be contested at the Connecticut Tennis Center.
Bartoli won six of the first seven games before Stephens ripped off nine straight games to not only take the second set but seemingly grabbing control of the final set as well. However, Bartoli got on a roll just in the nick of time as she won the last six games to win a wild second-round match 6-1, 0-6, 6-3 on Tuesday afternoon.
"It was a roller coaster ride and it was a bit difficult," said Bartoli, the fifth seed who will play fourth-seeded Sara Errani in the quarterfinals. "I really felt like we played some great tennis today.
"I was trying to remember that when I was sitting in my chair how many times in my career I lost nine games in a row and it doesn't happen very often. I would have preferred playing like I was in the first set but it didn't happen so I had to look forward and just find a way to win."
Stephens was up 3-0 in the final set when the veteran Bartoli took the rising American star to school by winning all the key points down the stretch.
"It was crazy," Stephens said. "I think we both played pretty well. I think I started out pretty shaky and things kind of went from there but it was kind of funky way to end it."
Having engaged in a memorable duel with Stephens, and having been eliminated by Christina McHale, another talented young American in the 2011 US Open, Bartoli knows a thing or two about the future of American women’s tennis.
"I played Christina earlier in the summer in San Diego," Bartoli said. "I feel like they have a different game. Sloane can hit the ball really hard, maybe harder than Christina can but they are very similar in the way that they are not afraid to play against the top players and they compete very well. I am sure they are going to do well. When I played Christina I knew she was an up and coming player and now she in the top 30. Maybe Sloane has a bit more weapons than Christina has but I am sure they will both do very well."
Bartoli has been a mainstay at the WTA’s only New England event since making her main draw debut in New Haven back in 2005. Bartoli actually made her debut at the Connecticut Tennis Center in 2003 when she lost in the second round of qualifying.
Her nine singles appearances in New Haven ranked second along with Meghann Shaughnessy and 2005 finalists Amelie Mauresmo. Only Daniela Hantuchova, who has played singles in New Haven 10 times including this year when she lost in the first round, has been in the New Haven singles draw more than Bartoli.
"I love this tournament first of all," Bartoli said. "Even though I had some pretty bad losses in the US Open the last few years I have always come back here because I felt very comfortable here. I think (tournament director) Anne Worcester does an amazing job making every single player very much welcome here in New Haven. Not (being) an American sometimes you can feel really like not an American, which is definitely not the case here. She is making sure everybody is comfortable and you have all the facilities to practice."