By Steve Keating
CINCINNATI (Reuters) - Having realized a lifelong dream by claiming the Wimbledon title, Marion Bartoli decided she had nothing left to give on Wednesday, shocking the world of tennis by bidding a sudden and poignant farewell to the sport.
Just six weeks earlier, the 28-year-old Frenchwoman had shed tears of joy as she soaked up the applause following her straight sets win over Germany's Sabine Lisicki in the Wimbledon final to claim her first and only grand slam title.
The toast of France, Bartoli was on top of the sporting world but came crashing back down to earth on Wednesday when a second round loss to Romanian Simona Halep at the Western and Southern Open was enough to convince her it was time to quit.
"Well, it's never easy and obviously there is never a time to say it but that was actually the last match of my career. Sorry," the world number seven said with tears pouring from her eyes.
"It's time for me to retire and to call it a career. I feel it's time for me to walk away.
"My body, I just can't do it anymore."
Bartoli had offered no hint that she was contemplating retirement and appeared focused on preparing for the upcoming U.S. Open, where she had her best grand slam result last season by reaching the quarter-finals.
But the loss to Halep persuaded the circumspect Frenchwoman that the time was ripe to hang up her racket and as the crowds left the stadium and headed out into the night, Bartoli did likewise to start a new life.
"You never kind of know before it's going to be your last match but I felt that way after the match. I felt I just couldn't do this anymore," Bartoli admitted. "After one set, my whole body was in pain.
"You know, everyone will remember my Wimbledon title. No one will remember the last match I played here.
"There are so many things to do in life rather than playing tennis, so I'm sure I will find something."
An eight-time winner on the WTA Tour, Bartoli played in every grand slam since the 2002 U.S. Open and was seen as one of the sport's more durable competitors.
But Bartoli made it clear that 13 years on the circuit had taken a heavy toll and it was a price she was no longer willing pay.
"I've been already through a lot of injuries since the beginning of the year," she added. "I've been on the tour for so long and I really pushed through and left it all (out there) during that Wimbledon.
"I really felt I gave all the energy I have left inside my body.
"I have pain everywhere after 45 minutes or an hour of play. I've been doing this for so long... it's just body wise I just can't do it anymore."
The decision to retire was made easier by the fact that Bartoli had battled long enough to realize her dream of becoming a grand slam champion.
After winning Wimbledon, Bartoli said it had been her dream since she was six-years old to hold the trophy.
For 13-years and through 47 grand slam tournaments Bartoli had chased that singular dream and finally made it a reality but in doing so had sacrificed everything she had to offer.
"It's hard to explain but when you dreamed about something for so long and you have been on the tour for many, many, many years and you have been through up and downs and high and lows," said Bartoli, struggling to regain her composure.
"My body was really starting to fall apart and I was able to keep it together, go through the pain with a lot of pain throughout this Wimbledon, and make it happen.
"That was probably the last little bit of something that was left inside me.
"I made my dream a reality and it will stay with me forever."
(Editing by John O'Brien)