Lisicki rallies for spot in final
LONDON -- Making up for the lack of star power in the Wimbledon women's semifinals and a dreadful first semifinal, there was no shortage of suspense in Thursday's finale.
And when it was over, Germany's Sabine Lisicki ignored her grass allergies, dropped and rolled following her forehand winner to seal a 6-4, 2-6, 9-7 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska. The victory vaulted her into her first career Grand Slam final against Marion Bartoli.
"It was a battle and I'm just so happy to win it," said Lisicki, becoming the first German woman to play in a Wimbledon final since Steffi Graf played American Lindsay Davenport in 1999.
"I think I haven't realized it yet. When I arrived here at the tournament, I just said that anything's possible. That's what I believed. I still do."
Graf texted Lisicki with well wishes before the match and the No. 23 seed (and slayer of defending champion Serena Williams in the fourth round) looked a bit like her countrywoman with her powerful serve and forehand in the first set.
But after a break to go up 1-0 in the second set, Lisicki wilted, her serve broken the next four times. She would drop eight of the next nine games to trail 3-0 in the third, evoking memories of her match against Williams, in which she trailed 4-2 in the third before rallying back for the victory.
"Down three-love, I thought, 'OK, you did that against Serena, you can do it now as well,'" Lisicki said.
For much of the second set, Lisicki appeared to be doing a bad impression of her opponent, a cool technician who makes up for a lack of power with expert touch and shot-making. But it wasn't working for Lisicki, whose staggering number of unforced errors (17 in the second set to three for Radwanska) outweighed her 15 second-set winners.
"She made some really good points. I made a few errors too many," she said. "But I regained my focus and game in the third set, and that's the main part."
Indeed, after holding serve at 3-1 in the third and breaking Radwanska's serve with a solid game to pull to 3-2, the momentum tangibly shifted as Lisicki and her big serve came back with a vengeance. She won at love to knot the score at 3-3.
Lisicki broke to take a 5-4 lead and serve for the match. But Radwanska, the tournament's No. 4 seed, converted her fourth break point in the next game, a sloppy effort by Lisicki, to tie the score again at 5-all.
The level of play rose for both at that point, trading touch shot for touch shot, pass for pass and get for get, before Lisicki capitalized on her second break point at 8-7 following a succession of uncharacteristic unforced errors by Radwanska.
Lisicki closed out the 2-hour, 18-minute affair with a forehand down the line on her second match point.
Former foes in the Polish 10-and-unders, there was no love lost at match point as Radwanska surprisingly offered a cold, quick handshake to the victor a day after fans applauded the sportsmanship demonstrated in the all-Polish men's quarterfinal after which the finalists traded shirts and hugged at the net.
"Should I just be there and dance?" Radwanska offered by way of explanation. "What could I do?
"I mean, I didn't feel like that at that point."
Radwanska, who lost to Williams in last year's final and like the other three women's semifinalists was bidding for her first Grand Slam title, took no consolation in a match in which Lisicki committed 46 unforced errors compared to her 10.
"I'd rather play bad and win the match than losing after that one," Radwanska said. "I mean, definitely good match but I had a lot of chances, couple of easy mistakes. It cost me the whole match."
In the end, Lisicki held a 60-21 edge in total winners and fulfilled predictions by pundits and oddsmakers who made her the favorite.
But more than that, if there is a player of destiny, it may well be Lisicki, who has repeatedly spoken of an ankle injury in 2010 that caused her ranking to drop from 218th to 23rd in less than a year and gave her a newfound appreciation for the game. On Thursday, she said New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees' biography, in which he detailed his comeback from a serious shoulder injury, also inspired her.
More than anything, however, is a passion for tennis, she said, which fueled childhood dreams of Wimbledon's Centre Court and days like this one.
"I love the sport so much," she said. "I miss it so much when I cannot be out there on the court. The love of the game just gives me the belief to overcome anything that comes.