By Martyn Herman
LONDON, July 4 French jack-in-the-box Marion Bartoli barely had enough time to go through her full repertoire of peculiar mannerisms as she thrashed Kirsten Flipkens 6-1 6-2 on Thursday to reach her second Wimbledon final.
The 15th seed sealed victory in 63 minutes, overwhelming Flipkens with some brutal hitting and will now open her box of tricks against Germany's Sabine Lisicki on Saturday as both seek a first major title.
Bartoli, one of the most unorthodox players in the women's game, crunched double-fisted forehands and backhands for winners and fired down one second serve ace at nearly 100mph.
"I just cannot believe it, I played so well," Bartoli, beaten by Venus Williams in the 2007 final, said.
"I saw the ball like a football. I hit it cleanly from the start. To play so well in the semi-final at Wimbledon is an amazing feeling."
Flipkens knocked out former champion Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals but looked pensive throughout against Bartoli and needed treatment on her heavily-strapped right knee in the middle of the second set.
"I think she was a bit injured and she deserves a lot of credit. It must be hard to be injured in the semi-final at Wimbledon," Bartoli, who has reached the final without dropping a set, said.
The Centre Court tried desperately to lift Flipkens, although even their enthusiasm for the underdog waned as the match reached an inevitable conclusion.
Value for money it was not, although the match did at least last longer than the 19 minutes it American Alice Marble to beat German Hilde Sperling 6-0 6-0 in 1939.
Bartoli was her usual bundle of energy from the first point.
Twice she wrapped up games with aces and sprinted to her chair and when waiting to return she played practice swings with her back turned, as if standing in front of an imaginary mirror.
In between points, she was perpetual motion, jogging on the spot and bouncing around like a prize fighter. At times she stood well inside the baseline to face Flipkens' serve.
The 28-year-old denied, however, that her routines are designed to intimidate.
"When I'm on the court, I'm in my zone, in my bubble. I'm doing what I feel I need to do to be ready the best that I can," she said. "There is nothing into my attitude to make my opponent scared or annoying her or disturbing her or whatever."
"C'mon Flipper" was the cry from the members of the crowd as the first set sped away from 27-year-old Flipkens who became the fourth Belgian woman to reach a grand slam semi-final after close friend Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Yanina Wickmayer.
Bartoli's play was brutal and she allowed her opponent only two points in the first three games of the second set, at which point Flipkens called for the trainer for a knee injury.
"Marion played an amazing match," Flipkens said. "But I fell in the first set. At that moment I didn't feel it, but a couple of games later I started to feel a really sharp pain."
The spectacle-wearing Flipkens made no excuses though.
"I tried my slices. She didn't have any problem with that. I tried the dropshot. She got it. I tried to come to the net and she lobbed me. I tried everything, actually."
The Belgian, who slumped to 262nd in the rankings a year ago after blood clots were discovered in her calf, forcing her to stop playing for two months, scraped another couple of games and even allowed herself a rueful smile when a Hawkeye challenge went against her.
Former men's champion John McEnroe, commentating on the match for television, described the occasion as a "nightmare" for Flipkens but it was over quickly as Bartoli powered away a smash on her second match point. (Editing by Ed Osmond)