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How Wimbledon Champ Marion Bartoli Bounced Back From Tennis Burnout

The French tennis pro tells us what she has learnt from a major health scare and retiring from competitive tennis.

French tennis player Marion Bartoli famously retired just one-and-a-half months after winning the Wimbledon Championships singles title. The 32-year-old is now a sports pundit and commentator for Fox Sports, and recently dropped by Singapore en route to Melbourne to cover the Australian Open.

Marion at an event last year, after she had lost 19kg to a mysterious virus.

1. Being healthy is half the battle won.
Marion learnt the importance of health the hard way last year when she contracted a mysterious virus on a flight from India that caused severe allergies and a rapid 19kg weight loss. Says Marion, who tips the scales now at a healthy 63kg (see main pic): “Since my body was already weak from overworking, the virus attacked my blood and started to kill my immune system. I couldn’t even eat a piece of fish and digest it properly. I thought I was going to die. (Chokes up) I never thought that working and travelling too much and not having enough sleep would have such a huge effect — it was so much easier to stay focused when I was healthy. I was on antibiotics for two months. My check-up last December came up clear for the first time. That was the best Christmas present ever. My body won’t let me forget this experience. Never ever! After I’m done with my interviews today, I’m heading to the gym. I need to get my abs back!”

2. If you think you’re burning out, opt out. 
After retiring from competitive tennis, Marion stayed in the biz by becoming a sports commentator. She explains: “I decided to retire ’cos my body was already collapsing. But every tennis player gets exhausted at some point. You’re doing the same movements over and over again. But I’d never get bored of tennis. I can watch it all day long. I felt that it would be interesting to be a TV commentator since I adore going to the Grand Slam every year to watch the matches and meet up with my [fellow tennis player] friends again. I love Steffi Graf and Venus and Serena [Williams]. They’re all such inspiring human beings.”

3. Have fun learning new things.
Marion had to pick up new skills in her current TV job. “I learnt about different cultures from the viewers. The French audience prefers more gossip and fewer technical details, and it’s the opposite for English fans,” she muses. Other job hazards she’s discovered
in her new job? “I worry about whether my jacket is going to slide off on TV, or if I had left my microphone on during commercials. (Laughs) I think in French, so I’ve accidentally said French words out loud when they should be in English.”

4. It’s good to be busy.
Marion declares that she’d rather bustle around than be idle. “It’s not in me to take things easy. (Guffaws) I only relax when I play tennis with my nieces and nephews. But when I’m in work mode, I’m very serious. When I was in China working with a design team on my fashion line with Fila, we worked from 9am to 9pm non-stop.” But learn to say no when you need to. “I always thought that I’d be fine after taking a week off here and there to rest. But I actually put myself in danger by not being able to say no to work, and always trying to please everybody. On the tennis court, you don’t use the word ‘no’. ’Cos it’s all about pushing yourself further and further to do more. Now I try to take on fewer projects. Saying ‘no’ is a learning process!”

5. It’s not the end of the world when you flop at something.
The toughest part about being a pro tennis player is not the training, but “picking up the pieces” after you’ve lost a match, according to Marion. “When you’re winning, you feel like you’re at the top of the world and you just keep on winning. It was so much harder to bounce back every time I lose. But I never doubted myself or thought I was not good enough. No matter how much effort it took or what kind of disappointment I go through, I only think about winning and getting that trophy. The real end of the road is when you win Wimbledon, and I did it in the end. (Laughs)”

Catch the 2017 Grand Slam tournaments live on Fox Sports (Singtel TV Ch 114 & StarHub Ch 208) and FOX Sports 2 (Singtel Ch 115 & StarHub Ch 209).

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