Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty

Nearly five years after winning Wimbledon in 2013 and announcing her retirement, Marion Bartoli—whose drastic weight loss last year sparked concern and social media bullying—is returning to professional tennis. She announced her comeback last month, and in an interview with L’Equipe published yesterday, she discussed the specifics of her return, her eating disorder, her manipulative ex-boyfriend, and why and how she hopes to return to the tour.

A year and a half ago, in the summer of 2016, Bartoli attributed her weight loss to a virus she had contracted in India, which she said prevented her from eating most foods. Before that, she said her weight loss was just a return to her natural shape. That summer, Wimbledon barred her from playing in a women’s double exhibition match and cited medical reasons.

Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty

In today’s interview with L’Equipe, translated by Tennis Translations, Bartoli says that being in a psychologically damaging relationship compelled her to lose too much weight.

“When I retired, I was the happiest in the world. Then I met my ex-boyfriend in May 2014 and everyday he would tell me that I was fat. Every day. He would see a thin girl on the street and tell me: ‘See how skinny and pretty she is.’”

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“I came out of Wimbledon [2013] telling myself: ‘I’ve realised my dream, I’ll be happy ever after.’ I had a huge daily joie de vivre. He took it all. He extinguished it bit by bit every day. He even took away my love of playing. Every time we played tennis together, he did everything to beat me playing doubles by putting himself with the best possible player and me with the worst. He did it even with singles. So, he took everything. I managed to get out of it, but it took time. Eighteen months, that’s a long time. I was very young in a real love relationship, living with someone everyday.”

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Bartoli said, “I let myself get destroyed by someone and I did not think it was possible.” In the last year, however, she has recovered and now says that she feels she has to return to tennis: “I need to prove to myself that I’m alive.”

In preparation for her return to competition, slated for the Miami Open on March 21, she says she spends her entire days at the French training center, playing tennis and working out for up to six and a half hours each day. Bartoli told L’Equipe that she won’t return unless she’s at her optimum weight so as to prevent injury, and said she needs to lose between five and seven kilos. When she’s ready, Bartoli doesn’t intend to fight her way through the Challengers.

“Honestly, I’m not going to put up with playing Challengers. I played the $50K’s when I was sixteen. I’m not going to do it at thirty-three. If I’m coming back, it’s to try and play big matches on the big courts and experience those feelings. It’s not a question of ranking.”

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I’m not coming back to be ranked 100. I spent my entire career in the top 20, and at my best in the top 10. If I’m playing top 100 in February and getting my butt kicked by top 30 players, I’ll really need to question myself. If, with no pressure, during practice sets, with my coach behind me, I don’t have the level, I won’t have the match level. I might give myself a longer training time up to grass, and if I then don’t have the level … I’m coming back to have fun, play big matches and enjoy myself.

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Bartoli is also scheduled to play an exhibition match with Serena and Venus Williams in New York City on March 7.

“I’m so happy when I’m on a tennis court that I’m reliving happy times every day,” Bartoli said. “They make up for the ‘unhappy times.’”