Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lisicki and Bartoli hit their way to the Wimbledon final

Sabine Lisicki
When you're down 0-3 in the final set against Serena Williams and you find a way to come back and win the match, you create a memory that's stored in your brain, just in case you need it. Sabine Lisicki needed that memory today, when she found herself down 0-3 in the final set against 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska.  The German player acknowledged, in fact, that when she went down 0-3, her thought was "Okay, you did that against Serena, you can do it now as well." And she did it, winning the match 6-4, 2-6, 9-7.

It was an entertaining match by any standard. Lisicki hit 60 winners and made 46 unforced errors; Radwanska's comparative stats were 21 and 10. Each broke the other six times, they each won an equal number of games, and in the end, four points separated them. Lisicki double-faulte
d seven times, but she also hit nine aces.

It took Radwanska a while to get used to Lisicki's pace, but once she did, the 4th seed went on a slicing mission that flummoxed her opponent repeatedly, breaking her rhythm and causing her to land balls into the net. Radwanska went on such a roll, in fact, that it looked as though the third set would go by very quickly. Lisicki can be murcurial, and today looked like one of those days in which she just lost her momentum and couldn't get it back.

But after breaking Radwanska to go 2-3, things started to change. Lisicki became more self-assured about her serve again, and she found ways to give Radwanska fewer opportunities to take her out of her hitting zone. The German player served for the match at 5-4, but Radwanska, after failing to convert three break points, did the job on her fourth to even the set at 5-all.

But the usually cool Polish player lost her way and became error-prone in the 14th game of the set, and was easily broken. This time, when Lisicki served for the  match, she was successful, though Radwanska saved one match point.

There was a moment in the last set when Radwanska had to go to practically another county to retrieve an "unretrievable" ball, and she was successful, only to see Lisicki appear out of nowhere and softly toss the ball back over the net. Radwanska looked stunned, and threw her racket into the air in an apparent "I can't believe that just happened" moment.

This was a very exciting match, with lots of show-offy (and I mean that in the very best way) shots made by both players.  And as fast as Radwanska is on the court, she showed at the end of today's semifinal that she can be pretty speedy getting off of the court, too. She was gone in a flash. In a recent interview, Radwanska said that she doesn't cry when she's sad or disappointed, but she's been known to cry tears of rage. One can only imagine the bucketful she produced today after coming so close to returning to the Wimbledon final.

Marion Bartoli
Lisicki, who is seeded 23rd, will meet 15th seed (and 2007 runner-up) Marion Bartoli in the final. Bartoli all but ran over Kirsten Flipkens, 6-1, 6-2, in what turned out to be a hitting clinic put on by the Frenchwoman. Flipkens' knee may have been bothering her a bit more today, too, which didn't help. Bartoli's service game tends to be either excellent or up-and-down. Today, it was excellent and then some, and that--combined with her stellar return game--eased her into the final in just over an hour.

ESPN was forced to deal with the fact that Bartoli even exists, and thank goodness Chris Evert was around. Yesterday, the network told us that Flipkens was "the headliner" in today's match. Well, of course she was, given that no one at ESPN had said a word about Bartoli up to today. Not to take anything away from Flipkens' amazing and inspiring run, but for Bartoli to turn up six years after she was the runner-up and vie for the final again is a pretty big deal.

Bartoli has 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo advising her, and at Wimbledon (or anywhere), one could do a lot worse. There will be some big-time hitting in the final; both women strike the ball hard and deep, and both can be adept at the net (Bartoli went 11 for 11 today, and Lisicki successfully hit 32 of 44).

Anyone who's still complaining about the draw hasn't been watching. The matches and the storylines just keep getting better.


bill said...

I guess I'm rooting for Sabine here, but Marion would be an inspiring and worthy champion too. This is a great matchup for the final.

Diane said...

It is!

I was so sorry to see Aga go out, but at least now I won't be agonizing over whether Aga or Marion has to get a big disappointment. That was a final in which I was going to be very happy and very sad at the same time, no matter who won.

I think Sabine would be a very fine champion, but I don't want to see Marion--after all these years--holding a runner-up trophy again. And should Marion win, it would be one hell of a sports story. (Very soft spot for MB here.)

Doug said...

Ditto, Diane. Go Marion.

Sabey said...

Radwanska/Lisicki was such a great match! I Feel that in the end offense won over defense. Too bad Aga had to display such terrible sportsmanship at the end.
I am very torn about the final as both ladies are very worthy of the title.

Diane said...

I think I "get" Radwanska, in that she'll do anything to hold in her feelings when she loses, especially under circumstances like yesterday's. (She grew up with a model of inapproptiately expressed rage and nastiness, and a lot of it was directed at her.) But yes, she does need to learn to at least look her opponent in the eye at the net. That would be a start, at least.