Wim­ble­don vic­tory would cap Ger­man’s re­mark­able re­cov­ery

Su­per Bine wows Ger­mans

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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

Gallo Im­ages

KICKER: Marion Bar­toli of France.

Gallo Im­ages

KICKER: Sabine Lisicki of Ger­many.

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