Wimbledon victory would cap German’s remarkable recovery
Super Bine wows Germans
GERMANY’S Sabine Lisicki admits that winning the Wimbledon final against Marion Bartoli today would be the perfect way to cap her remarkable recovery from a devastating injury that threatened to ruin her career.
When Lisicki walks onto Centre Court for her first Grand Slam final this weekend it will be both the culmination of a childhood dream and also a fitting end to a tale of redemption that started three years ago.
The 23- year- old German’s joyful celebration at the conclusion of Thursday’s dramatic 6- 4 2- 6 9- 7 win over Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska was a far cry from the dark days of 2010 when she was on crutches for months after sustaining a serious left ankle injury at Indian Wells.
Unable to walk and with her promising tennis career in the balance, Lisicki was at a crossroads.
But she refused to bow to suggestions that it might be better to leave tennis rather than risk further damage to her body.
And after five months of rehabilitation, she was finally able to return to action.
Even then the journey back to the top had to be taken one step at a time.
By the end of 2010 her ranking had slipped from 23 to 179 and in March 2011, she was down at 218.
But later that year she reached the Wimbledon semifinals as a wildcard and hasn’t looked back since.
“Coming back to play semi’s after dropping to 220 in the ranking, anything’s possible.”
The 23-year-old blonde has also fought a less serious problem – grass pollen.
“I used to hate grass. I have strong allergies to grass, and have to take medicine, but I have learnt how to handle this,” she said.
“I sneeze when I’m playing on the grass, but that’s just the way it is. The most important thing is to be out there playing on it.”
Beating French 15th seed Bartoli in a battle of two players both looking for their first Grand Slam title would be the icing on the cake for Lisicki, who has become the darling of the Centre Court with her beaming smile and all-action play.
“I always believed. Always. No matter what happened. I can still remember when the doctor told me that I have to be on crutches the next six weeks,” Lisicki said.
“That period made me such a much stronger person and player. I know anything is possible after learning how to walk again.
“I love the sport so much and I miss it when I cannot be WIMBLEDON finalist Sabine Lisicki has caught the imagination of tennis fans in her homeland as her semifinal win over Agnieszka Radwanska saw her become the first German woman in 14 years to reach a Grand Slam final.
“Super Sabine! It was an unbelievable fight, it was great how she kept her calm and nerve against Radwanska, especially after she was 3-0 down in the third set,” wrote Steffi Graf, who reached the 1999 Wimbledon final, on Facebook.
“We will all cheer for you in the final and keep our fingers crossed.”
Graf, 44, who lost to Lindsay Davenport in the 1999 Wimbledon final, was the last German to win a Grand Slam out there on the court. It just gives me the belief to overcome anything.”
Lisicki’s tale of triumph in adversity carries extra resonance at Wimbledon, where her compatriot Steffi Graf enjoyed so many great days.
And Lisicki, who caused one of the great Wimbledon shocks when she defeated five- time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round this year, admits success at the All England Club would fulfil a wish she first had as a child at home in Troisdorf.
“I’ve been dreaming about winning Wimbledon since I’m a little girl,” she said.
“The first time I was here I fell in love with Wimbledon.
“That’s why I said it’s the best place to play my first Grand Slam final. I just can’t wait to play.”
History favours Lisicki, who has won three of her four meetings with Bartoli.
But the wilfully eccentric Bartoli, famous for her bizarre on- court mannerisms, swept into her second Wimbledon final with a 6-1 6-2 demolition of Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens in just 62 minutes.
Despite the apparent onesidedness of her victory, Bartoli has never been one to do things the easy way.
She grew up outside the tennis mainstream, coached by her father Walter, a doctor who had no background in the sport and yet gave up his job to teach his daughter how to become a professional.
Walter constructed homemade contraptions to help with her practice sessions, while her court positioning inside the baseline is a legacy of her days learning the game in the HauteLoire region of France on a tiny court.
Her run to the final has vindicated her decision to cut ties title when she won the 1999 French Open, but Germany is enjoying having a new tennis star reach a major final.
The headline “BoomBoom-Bine!”, a tribute to the nickname “Boom-Boom-Becker!” given to former German star Boris Becker, appeared in several newspapers and 45year-old Becker is delighted to see his compatriot charm Wimbledon.
“Sabine Lisicki rocks! But you have to do it again, baby,” tweeted Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion.
Lisicki’s Fed Cup teammate, Andrea Petkovic, called on Lisicki to become a Wimbledon champion.
“Wow, Bine! We are all mega proud! Bring the title to Germany,” she wrote. – Sapa-AFP with her father and employ 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo as her new coach earlier this year.
With Bartoli’s results on the slide and her father conceding she might benefit from a different voice, she made the emotional decision to hire Mauresmo and the improvement in her game is now clear to see.
It helps that Bartoli has always been able to keep her life on court in perspective.
“I've always been someone who loves to smile and have a laugh. Of course sometimes you have sad moments but I’ve had a great run here and right now I’m smiling even more,” she said.
Her imperious march to the Wimbledon final without dropping a set is a marked contrast to her route in 2007.
Then Bartoli reached her only Grand Slam final as an unheralded 18th seed, losing to Venus Williams in straight sets only after causing a huge shock with her semi- final victory over then world No 1 Justine Henin.
In true Bartoli fashion, she said she had turned the Henin match around after seeing the former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan in the crowd and feeling that she could not play so badly in front of him.
Now six years on, Bartoli returns with far more experience and belief she can win the title.
“The last time I was so young. I was the underdog every time. This time I was the highest ranked player in every match,” she said.
“I have dealt with the pressure really well. I’m doing everything better, hitting the ball harder and moving faster than I was six years ago.
“If I played myself six years ago I would win quite easily I think.” – Sapa-AFP
KICKER: Marion Bartoli of France.
KICKER: Sabine Lisicki of Germany.