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Wimbledon champ Marion Bartoli's retirement stuns tennis world

Marion Bartoli of France celebrates a point during

Marion Bartoli of France celebrates a point during the Ladies' Singles final match against Sabine Lisicki of Germany on day twelve of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London. (July 6, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

MASON, Ohio -- Eulogies in the modern-day form -- tweets and texts -- came rolling in shortly after Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli tearfully described her three-set loss Wednesday night here in the U.S. Open tune-up tournament to be "actually, the last match of my career."

From 2011 Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova: "So sad . . . ''

And Hall of Famer Tracy Austin: "Shocker and a loss for the game."

And young Russian pro Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: "Sounds unreal." And so on.

The tennis community didn't even know Bartoli's game was sick. Only 39 days earlier, the 28-year-old Frenchwoman hit her career peak, a Grand Slam title after 46 previous major-tournament appearances in which she had advanced beyond the third round a mere nine times.

She had spoken recently of carrying her Wimbledon momentum into this month's U.S. Open, a year after making the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows, her deepest run there in 11 tries. Now, suddenly, Bartoli is gone.

"I am still a tennis player," she said Thursday. "I'm just not a professional tennis player. Everyone thinks I am dead. I am not dead."

In contrast to her emotional postmatch interview Wednesday, which took place shortly before 11 p.m., more than two hours after she lost to 25th-ranked Romanian Simona Halep, Bartoli Thursday was fairly jocular and relaxed.

"I feel great," she said, indicating that she was as surprised as anyone by her out-of-the-blue decision.

"It's not like you say in the morning, 'I'm going to retire today.' It's something that happens," Bartoli said. "You feel the moment and that's what I felt [Wednesday]. It was time for me to walk away from the game."

She repeated Wednesday night's sense that "my body started to fall apart everywhere. In the morning, it took me more than 10 minutes to be able to walk." In Toronto last week, she pulled out of her second-round match and Wednesday felt "pain everywhere" -- in her Achilles, shoulder, ribs and lower back.

Had she not won Wimbledon, Bartoli said, "I have no idea" it she would have pushed through her physical problems to keep playing. "I'm not the kind of person who can rewrite history. I had some highs and lows, some tears and joys, but it was meant to be that one day I would be Wimbledon champion. And I did it."

Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka called Bartoli's decision "surprising" and "brave."

It was more important to her, Bartoli said, to be remembered as "a nice person. What made me cry the most was all the support I received" when the tennis world got the news of her retirement.

Asked what she would miss most from her previous life, she giggled and said, "Not much. I just really felt I did it all. That's it."

But the end certainly was sudden.

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