Wimbledon 2013: For Sabine Lisicki, the grass is always greener at SW19
Wimbledon 2013 has been a tournament for the “others” – the not-so-famous-outside-the-top-10 players have risen to the challenge of the stars who enjoy cult status.
Reigning Wimbledon champ and world no. 1 Serena Williams, joined the list of big name casualties falling to German no. 23 seed Sabine Lisicki. On a scale of ten though, this result should register at six for shock value; for these courts have held special value for Lisicki over the years.
Even as the champion fell, she realised that she had fallen to a very good grass court player, reflected in the congratulatory words that were passed on to her conqueror at the net. For 23-year-old Lisicki, grass is where the heart is.
The young German just loves playing on grass and why wouldn’t she?
Her brand of high octane tennis goes perfectly on these courts as her shots and her serve seem to carry that added zip. She has had the most success on this surface over any other. Strangely enough though, she used to hate playing on grass in her early years due to an allergy to the surface, which she has conquered over the years with medicine.
Lisicki has gone on to progress to the semi-finals now in a repeat of her best result from 2011. Her worst result was a first round loss in 2008, which incidentally happened to be her first time at SW19. She has always managed to reach the quarter-finals ever since then.
Lisicki boasts of a rather aggressive game as she hits a heavy ball with plenty of topspin and pace, and is strong on either wing. She earned the nickname ‘Boom Boom’ for her huge serve and thumping ground strokes (coincidentally the last person to have that name was also a German, Boris Becker).
All of that has resulted in a record of 17-4 at Wimbledon, an 81% win ratio, her best record across the four Slams. And Williams was not the first big scalp for the German, who has made quite a habit of causing an upset at Wimbledon since 2009.
Lisicki is now 4-0 while playing the reigning French Open champion at Wimbledon. In the last five years, on four occasions the winner of the French Open crown has run into Lisicki and bitten the dust (alright grass) each time.
In 2009, she took care of Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 7-5 in the third round and followed it up with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Caroline Wozniacki. In 2011, playing as a wildcard, she beat Li Na 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 in the second round and went on to beat Marion Bartoli in the quarter-finals.
Maria Sharapova met a similar fate in 2012 when she was defeated 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round. And this year, it was Williams’ turn. The winner at Roland Garros next year may not want to run into her at SW19.
A product of the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Brandenton, Florida, Lisicki has one of the most powerful serves in the women’s circuit, bested only by the woman she conquered in the fourth round – Serena Williams, who incidentally is a five-time champion at Wimbledon.
Lisicki regularly hits serves in excess of 120mph and happens to hold the record for the fastest serve in women’s tennis, with a delivery recorded at 130 mph in 2009. She is ranked fourth in the WTA for 1st service points won, 70.2%, and for service games won, 73.9%. At 185 aces for the year, she is currently second only behind Serena (who is miles ahead at 268).
Bollettieri had this to say on his academy product: “Lisicki is a big, strong, hard-hitting player who reminds me of a boxer throwing punches from every single direction.
The problem is some of the punches land in the right spot and some don’t. But she’s got great power, a strong serve; she works very hard and has a big-match mentality you can’t always teach.”
That big match mentality is what we’ve seen in copious amounts over the years on the green lawns of Wimbledon. And every year, she has delivered a knockout blow to some of the biggest names in the women’s game.
Lisicki is in the semi-finals this year’s after beating Kaia Kanepi 6-3 6-3 on Court One and will take on Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, last year’s runner-up, who beat Chinese sixth seed Li Na, 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-2 for a place in the final. That bout will decide whether she can go where she has never gone before and reach the finals, and maybe, just maybe, win it all this year.
A few more of those heavy right hooks could well do the trick, leaving her opponents floored and Sabine Lisicki with the Venus Rosewater Dish.