Forgiveness has been in short supply for Richard Scudamore since his sexist emails came to light but Marion Bartoli is determined to give radio  presenter John Inverdale another chance despite his infamous attack on her after she won Wimbledon.

No sooner had she she lifted the Venus Rosewater dish at SW19 last year than Inverdale told BBC Radio 5 Live listeners: “I just wonder if her dad did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14, ‘Listen, you’re never going to be a looker, you’re never going to be a Sharapova, you are never going to be 5ft 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that’.”

The BBC received 700 complaints, Culture Minister Maria Miller weighed in with her twopennyworth and, last week, Inverdalelost his 5Live slot at this year’s Championships to Clare Balding.

However, not only is Bartoli sharing a commentary box with him at the French Open this week — the first time in 13 years she will not be in action at Roland Garros — but, when reminded her of his comments, she sounds like Inverdale’s spin doctor.

“I think it was a lot of misunderstanding from the Press. They made more of the story about something that was really nothing to me. I met him in London [two weeks ago] and everything went smoothly and very nicely. He said that he was getting ill a little bit after my match [the illness was hayfever] and wanted to be ready for the next one — Andy Murray’s final.”

The two met before the start of the French Open at a launch for ITV’s coverage from Paris on ITV4 and ITV3. The pair were photographed tugging jokingly at a tennis net which created such a bond that Bartoli gushes: “We’re spending two whole weeks together so I’m feeling like I’m part of a family right now. It’s great.”

To see Inverdale as part of her family suggests that Bartoli is carrying forgiveness a touch too far. Maybe she is seeking to promote her role as commentator but the 29-year-old sounds genuine when she says how people look and dress means little to her. That is in contrast to Maria Sharapova, who recently said Murray needs to develop a better dress sense and buy better clothes.

When I ask Bartoli what her advice to Murray would be, she laughs: “Unlike Maria, I do not comment on those things. I don’t have any views.” She should have had a close up of Murray’s dress sense at last year’s Wimbledon Champions Ball. Tradition dictates that the first dance is between the men’s and ladies’ winners but, says Bartoli: “It was not like that last year. He arrived very late. We were both extremely tired and we didn’t dance.”

What she remembers, and would rather dwell on, is “receiving the trophy replica on the stage — it will be forever in my home — the badge being pinned on my dress and the kiss from Philip Brook [chairman of the All England Club].

“Because I’m French, the French Open is, of course, in my heart but winning Wimbledon is definitely the pinnacle of our sport, the best of the best, the greatest thing for me. It was a childhood dream come true.”

It allowed Bartoli to wipe away the awful memory of losing the 2007 final to Venus Williams. “Unfortunately in sport we never remember the finalist, we just remember the winner. Now, every single day, I remember because everywhere I go, everyone is telling me, ‘Oh gosh, congratulations on being Wimbledon champion’. I will never, absolutely never, forget what I felt when I saw the ball on the line and I heard, ‘Game, set and match, Miss Bartoli’.”

This explains why, despite the fact that Wimbledon is the only Slam she won, Bartoli felt no qualms about not defending her title.  A mere 40 days later, she announced her retirement.

“Maybe for others, their best is winning several Grand Slams. My best was winning just one. What I’m most proud of is that every single day I really tried my hardest to be the best I could be. So I have absolutely no regrets.”

The decision was made easier by injury. “I really couldn’t do it any more physically,” she says. “My whole body was just so tired after so many years on the tour. And, despite media speculation, I have never thought of coming back. I’m not a person who changes my mind. I’ve been extremely lucky and I’m starting a new chapter now.”

This new chapter began at last year’s US Open, when she became a commentator. It did not worry her that she would have to speak English, which is not her first language. “I’ve been listening to the commentators in English for years on the tour, so that is not a problem.”

While her decision to play both double-handed backhands and forehands was inspired by Monica Seles, she has felt no need to emulate former players when it comes to commentating.

“I have no role models,” she says. Not even to become the female equivalent of John McEnroe? “No, I’m not trying to copy anyone, I’m trying to be myself. I just describe what I see. I still have very much a player’s view. I know what a player is feeling during a match. We have doubts, fears and stress and I try to explain that to the viewers.”

But those hoping for controversy will be disappointed. “I am trying not to be unfair. I don’t blame them when they make mistakes because I know how hard it is to be at your peak every day. I’m more on their side, trying to explain how difficult it is to play and how much we have to train. Sometimes you have a bad day but I’m not critical at all.”

She laughs as she says this but her desire to be uncritical seems to go too far when she even refuses to name who might win the French Open.

“As a player, it made absolutely no sense at all when I heard commentators say, ‘This one is the favourite.’ There are 128 players, they all have a chance. There are so many aspects of the game that can change the result depending on the conditions: if it’s slow, if it’s raining, if it’s sunny, the injuries to the players.”

But, when pushed, she names three players who could dominate this year’s Grand Slams, although one, Victoria Azarenka, is out with a foot injury: “When Serena is playing, she’s always the favourite but a lot depends on her physical shape. Sharapova is coming back strongly.”

But then, as if she has said too much, she adds: “The competition is extremely tight, it is going to be extremely interesting and anyone can win really.”

With such measured, cautious views she sounds like the ideal partner for John Inverdale.



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