Serena Williams vs Sabine Lisicki: A battle for the ages
On a partly cloudy Monday afternoon, with the weather forecast to be dry with a few sunny spells, the crowd on Centre Court was eagerly awaiting the match which pitted Britain’s star player Andy Murray against Mikhail Youzhny. The action-starved crowd at SW19 was hoping for clear weather after rain had threatened to play havoc on the schedule resulting in all round of 16 matches of the singles draw to be scheduled on the same day. Little did they anticipate an epic encounter would enthrall them for almost two hours, which culminated in an unexpected result.
Serena Williams, playing the best tennis of her life, was scheduled to take on Sabine Lisicki of Germany. Going by the way she had dispatched her previous opponents with tremendous ease, many expected Serena to go through without much resistance.
But Lisicki had two things in her favour, one being history – she had defeated the reigning French Open champions in her past three appearances at Wimbledon (Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2009, Li Na in 2011 and recently Maria Sharapova in 2012); the other was the fact that she had a game that resembled Serena’s game in many facets – a booming serve, powerful groundstrokes and good footwork.
In the first set, Lisicki served up some of her trademark booming serves, living up to her nickname “Boom Boom.” In fact, it was she who possessed the fastest serve of the tournament at 122mph en route to 17 aces, prior to the match. She also used another ploy against Serena which had worked in the past. Many a time, she tried to hit behind Serena, forcing her to abruptly change direction. This led to many errors on the part of Williams and put pressure on her service games.
At her wits end, Williams hung her head down, pondering what to do. With the pressure not easing, Lisicki finally broke Williams to lead at 4-2 in the first set. In the next game, she never allowed Williams leverage to hit back, banging some of her serves to hold at love. In the next game, Lisicki again broke Williams to take the first set, 6-2.
The second set was a complete contrast to the first. With her 34-match winning streak at stake, Williams had decided that enough was enough. Though the first game began with what seemed like a routine hold by Lisicki, Williams upped the ante from the second game onwards.
Her thunderous first serve was back, and her groundstrokes regained their panache. This coincided with Lisicki faltering in her first serve and committing far too many unforced errors. Sensing her opponent’s weak second serve, Williams positioned herself a few feet before the baseline and delivered some punching returns. Williams broke Lisicki’s serve in the third game of the set.
Lisicki tried a different tactic, trying to hit deeper into the court to counter Serena’s groundstroke prowess but was very inconsistent. A skewed forehand coupled with a faulty first serve didn’t help Lisicki’s cause. Serena broke again in the fifth game, with Lisicki attempting some over-ambitious, off-balance forehand winners that either bounced out or crashed into the net.
Serena went on to capture the second set, 6-1, committing only one unforced error throughout the set. The first set witnessed a flustered Serena screaming at herself, committing many uncharacteristic errors on her groundstrokes. In the second, the returns were powerful, serves were more assured and the mind more composed. The swagger was back, though the face showed no emotion.