Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Safina wins error-filled match and moves to Wimbledon semifinals

Sometimes you watch a match and you think "no one deserves to lose." Watching world number 1 Dinara Safina and Sabine Lisicki playing their Wimbledon quarterfinal today, all I could think was "no one deserves to win." This was a messy affair, with each player bringing her collapsible nerves onto the court, along with a bag of racquets and strings. Safina double-faulted 15 times, including three times in a row when she up 40-0 in the sixth game of the third set. For her part, Lisicki--once again--saw her estimable forehand go astray over and over.

The unseeded Lisicki went up a break early in the first set, but--serving for the set at 5-4 and obviously tense, she double-faulted, went down 0-40, and was soon broken. The set went to a tiebreak, during which Lisicki double-faulted again. She had an easy put-away on her second set point, and missed it. But then Safina double-faulted, giving Lisicki her third set point, which she converted to a set victory.

In the second set, down 3-5, , Lisicki had a break point against her, but held. Safina served for the set, starting with--you guessed it--a double fault. At 30-all, there was an intense 21-shot rally, which Lisicki won. But then she slipped on a bare patch before striking a ball, and failed to break. Safina went on to win the set at 6-4, on her second set point.

Safina broke early in the third set, and Lisicki's serves suddenly lost their sting. Down 1-4, she called for a trainer because of a right calf strain. Safina managed to win the game in which she double-faulted three times in a row, and she went on to win the set, 6-1.

Safina's 15 double faults were all the more glaring because she did not hit any aces. Lisicki double-faulted a half dozen times and hit 12 aces. She made only four more unforced errors than Safina, and hit 10 more winners. Clearly, the reality of playing in a quarterfinal match on Centre Court had an effect on the German player, but so did her level of fitness. In her post-match interview, Lisicki said she thought that physical fitness was what made the difference, and--considering that her opponent was as mentally shaky as she was--she is probably right. You don't see Safina getting a calf strain or a thigh strain in a third set.

Lisicki would be wise to make fitness a goal for the rest of the season. But even with her third set problems today, it is obvious that she has what it takes to be a top player. As for Safina--her mental fitness continues to need work.


Anonymous said...

QUOTE: "Sometimes you watch a match and you think 'no one deserves to lose.' Watching world number 1 Dinara Safina and Sabine Lisicki playing their Wimbledon quarterfinal today, all I could think was 'no one deserves to win.'

Diane, I honestly think you should give up watching tennis.

To many many people, sport has nothing at all to do with persuing, or achieving perfection.
Sure, it's sometimes about being able to serve faultlessly & hit winner after winner, but it is more often than not far more entertaining, interesting & exciting when it is about: trying your best, failing, learning, making mistakes, overcoming your demons, hoping, daring, dreaming, showing your emotions, and being able to scrape through, even when all the odds seem stacked against you.

What a boring sport tennis would be if these kind of people never "deserved" to win... :(

Diane said...

Nice try, but...

It was a terrible match. (But hey--it was only a Wimbledon quarterfinal.)

And it was a figure of speech, as is "deserve to win." (no one really, literally, "deserves" to win or lose).

And it was a very unusual take for me to have on a match (which anyone who reads this blog regularly knows).

Unknown said...

Diane -- I agree with you on the Safina-Lisicki match but it didn't quite reach the epic level of the '07 U.S. Open semifinal between Chakvetadze and Kuznetsova. Now THAT match was hard to watch.

Diane said...

Ha! I'd forgotten about that until you mentioned it, David. Oh, yes--that was one for the books.