Last Monday, I arrived at Marion Bartoli’s Family Circle Cup presser table in Charleston late into the game. All of the good questions about her 7 WTA titles, the Olympics, and her family had already been asked. By the time I got a seat and had her attention, everyone else had moved on to Serena Williams behind her.
I didn’t want her to recite all the same answers again, so it was time to improvise. I remembered that she’d briefly mentioned in Brisbane that if she wasn’t playing tennis, she’d be the Prime Minister of France. So I struck up a conversation about politics. That’s right. I asked the only player to beat world #1 Vika Azarenka this year if she loved politics.
I do love politics. I’m really right now into the election for the President and I’m really following it. That’s something that I love. You see, I’m a tennis player, so I won’t be a Prime Minister, but I think it would certainly be nice to have some women out there.
Could I get her to give me any indication on who is nabbing her ballot in May’s Presidential Election in France? Bonne Chance! Since she’d mentioned women in politics, I asked if she’d supported Segolene Royal, who ran for President againt Nikolas Sarkozy in the last election. She immediately backed away from being brought into the fray like a veteran political operator handling the press.
My opinions are just for myself, but I really like the politics and I like to be involved with what’s going on, and I think it’s important to have a clue about everything that’s going on around you, not only tennis-wise, and I really like to follow it.
In a final attempt to get her to tip her hand on her political views, I asked whether she supported the traditional system of worker protection and valuing public educators for which the Republic is famous. That tradition has been challenged in recent years, most notably by President Sarkozy. She gave a very polished and centrist answer, leaving me no more likely to tell who she likes in May.
I think the French system is very much an example for a country. So, we get our problems. It costs a lot of money, so it’s not easy. I think to protect and help the other ones, it’s a great way.
She’s intelligent, a national celebrity, a tennis champion and she’s only 27 years old. While I appreciate her humility that somehow she couldn’t become Prime Minister as an athlete, I disagree. Incumbents are getting tossed out in record numbers. Voters want fresh faces all over the world. And between the WTA tour and the French press corps, she knows more about the rigors of the political process than most. It would not be out of the question to say that her energy and passion may ultimately lead her to the Élysée Palace.
The French Presidential Election Run-Off is May 6. Bartoli’s next appearance will be in Stuttgart on or about April 25.