LONDON, England - Striking the ball with the unrelenting authority she had when she first did it six years ago, Marion Bartoli powered back into the Wimbledon final on Thursday, blasting 23 winners and winning almost twice as many points during a 63-minute, 61 62 semifinal win over Kirsten Flipkens.
The two players had never played before, but the way she came out Bartoli looked like she had been playing Flipkens for years, storming out to a 3-0 lead and eventually closing out the first set in just 27 minutes, finishing it off with a massive ace out wide on set point, right on the line, chalk flying up.
Things only seemed to accelerate from there, too. Bartoli broke serve again right out of the blocks in the second set, then held, then broke again - she soon had her hands on another 3-0 lead. Flipkens worked her way into the match a little bit from there, splitting the next four games to close to 5-2, but the No.15-seeded Bartoli stepped up and served out the match in that game, finishing off the No.20-seeded Belgian with a huge overhead into the open court - she then dropped to her knees in joy.
"I just really can't believe it right now," Bartoli said to the BBC after coming off the court. "I played so well today and was feeling so great. I was seeing the ball like a soccer ball. She hits a lot of slice, so I knew I needed to be sharp on my footwork, and everything was just working so perfectly.
"Playing like that on Centre Court at Wimbledon was just an amazing feeling for me."
Bartoli also mentioned taking a short nap before the semifinal match in that interview coming off of Centre Court - she elaborated on that to reporters afterwards in her post-match press conference.
"I felt a bit tired and needed a quick nap to recover from my early morning practice and everything I had to do to be ready to go on court," she said. "So it was just a quick nap of 15, 20 minutes, and then I went on court. But so far it's working extremely well for me, so I don't think I'll be changing that."
She was then asked if she set an alarm. "No," she said. "I just said to the physio upstairs to wake me up just in case! I actually woke up by myself at 12:30 though, then went to warm up at 12:40."
And is there a nice spot to sleep? "Yeah, there is!" Bartoli said. "I'm never really sleeping on the floor. It's the ladies' members dressing room in Wimbledon, so you can have a sofa to sleep on."
Back to the actual tennis - does this run feel any different to the same run she made here in 2007?
"The last time I was so young, in a way, and every match I was coming on the court as the underdog. This time it was totally the opposite - this time I was the highest-ranked player every match, and I needed to put on a great performance in order to go through. And I think I've been able to deal with the pressure really well and keep improving throughout the tournament and keep playing better.
"And also I think I'm doing everything better now than I was back then. I'm able to hit the ball harder. I'm moving faster. Today, I think if I played myself from six years ago, I would be beating myself quite easily. The speed of my shots, the way I'm moving - I'm just doing everything better, honestly."
There's another big difference between the two runs. "Last time the most difficult thing was that I didn't have a day off between the semifinals and final. I finished extremely late against Justine and came back right away, less than 24 hours later, to play against Venus. It was really a very hard task.
"It's hard to physically recover from those kinds of matches, but today I felt I played a fairly quick match, and I have a day off tomorrow too, so I will be totally fresh to go into the final on Saturday."