Sabine Lisicki avoids letdown to gain Wimbledon semifinal

Updated: 03 July 2013 10:58 IST

Others who have pulled off big upsets at this tournament were not able to follow up those victories. Steve Darcis, who defeated Rafael Nadal in the first round, withdrew from his second-round match because of a shoulder injury he sustained against Nadal. Sergiy Stakhovsky, who beat Roger Federer in the second round, lost in the next round, saying he was not prepared for dealing with the aftermath of such an upset.

Sabine Lisicki avoids letdown to gain Wimbledon semifinal
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Wimbledon, England:

Unlike other giant killers at this Wimbledon, Sabine Lisicki backed up her upset.

A day after ousting the overwhelming favorite Serena Williams, Lisicki deftly and quickly defeated Kaia Kanepi, 6-3, 6-3, to reach the Wimbledon semifinals for the second time in three years.

"I knew from the past out of experience that needed I needed to make the switch quickly to be ready, and that's what I did," said Lisicki, the No. 23 seed from Germany.

She broke the unseeded Kanepi in the first game of the match and rolled from there, particularly flustering Kanepi with perfectly executed drop shots.

Lisicki, 23, said having been in the quarterfinals here two previous times helped her adjust for this match. And her experience playing in the 2011 semifinals, when she lost to Maria Sharapova, will help her, too.

"I know the different atmosphere," Lisicki said. "You know everything is starting to get empty in the locker room. It is, you know, a completely different feeling. But I'm glad that I had that experience before. I feel much fresher, fitter, better than two years ago."

Now the bettors' favorite to win the tournament, she maintained her big smile and relaxed demeanor.

"To have your hobby as a job is something that not a lot of people can say they have," she said.

Others who have pulled off big upsets at this tournament were not able to follow up those victories. Steve Darcis, who defeated Rafael Nadal in the first round, withdrew from his second-round match because of a shoulder injury he sustained against Nadal. Sergiy Stakhovsky, who beat Roger Federer in the second round, lost in the next round, saying he was not prepared for dealing with the aftermath of such an upset. Michelle Larcher de Brito, who upset Maria Sharapova in the second round, was eliminated in the third round.

Lisicki knows how to bounce back. Three years ago, just as she was rising up the ranks, she was sidelined for five months by an ankle injury. The injury changed her perspective.

"Three years ago when I couldn't walk, I had to learn how to walk again, and that made me appreciate every single moment out there a lot more," Lisicki said. "That's why I don't let anybody take that away from me."

She added: "To come back on the court to compete and then to go even further than I did before the injury gives you a lot of strength."

Kirsten Flipkens, a 27-year-old Belgian, knows how to bounce back, too. Last year, she missed two months when blood clots were discovered in her legs. When she returned, her ranking was so low, at No. 262, that she could not even enter the qualifying tournament at Wimbledon, where she won the junior championship in 2003 at age 17.

Since then, she has experienced a career resurgence. In the past year, she has reached three quarterfinals, three semifinals, and two finals, winning her first WTA event last year in Quebec City.

When Flipkens arrived at Wimbledon this year, she was the No. 20 seed after reaching her highest career ranking in June. The superlatives have not stopped. On Monday, when she reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, she kissed the grass and cried.

Then Tuesday she one-upped herself, with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 8 Petra Kvitova, the 2011 champion here, who appeared feverish and sick in the latter parts of the match. Kvitova was the highest seed left in the bottom half of the draw, which saw the withdrawal of No. 2 Victoria Azarenka and early losses by No. 3 Maria Sharapova and No. 5 Sara Errani.

In the semifinals, Flipkens will face No. 15 seed Marion Bartoli, who defeated No. 17 seed Sloane Stephens of the United States, 6-4, 7-5. Bartoli, who decided this season no longer to use her father as her coach, is in the semifinals of an event for the first time this season. She was the runner-up here in 2007.

Even before Tuesday's matches, one thing was certain: for the first time since the 2011 Australian Open, the women's semifinals at a major will be without at least one of the top three players in the world: Victoria Azarenka, Williams or Sharapova. This is only the fifth time in the Open era that the top three seeds have not reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event.

Despite upsets and injuries decimating the women's draw, Lisicki has still had a challenging path to the semifinals. Of the quarterfinalists, her opponents had the highest average ranking by far, at 21. Everyone else had at least one opponent ranked outside the top 100.

The opponent will not get any easier for Lisicki. In the semifinals, she will play No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, a 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-1 winner over No. 6 seed Li Na. Radwanska, the Wimbledon runner-up last year, is the highest seeded woman left in the draw.

Lisicki has the benefit of having had a relatively easy quarterfinal match, finishing in 1 hour 5 minutes. Radwanska's last three matches have taken more than two hours. Her epic quarterfinal against Li took nearly three hours and had two interruptions by rain for a total of 42 minutes. They finished the match with the Centre Court roof closed.

Li served for the first set at 5-4 and had four set points, including one where she appeared to hit an ace, but it was called out. She chose not to use a challenge, which would have shown the ball was in. Radwanska broke Li in that game and took the set in a tiebreaker.

Then came the first rain delay, which provided a reprieve for Li. Although she was broken in the third game, Li dominated the second half of the second set, winning the last four games as Radwanska struggled with her serve.

Radwanska, who was moving sluggishly in the second set, took a medical timeout after losing the second set. Her legs were massaged and her right thigh was taped. But she broke Li in the first game of the third set, and again in the fifth game. Li made Radwanska work for the win, saving seven match points in the final game.

"This is the quarterfinal of the Grand Slam, so I was really pushing myself even 200 percent to play till the end, fight till the end," Radwanska said.

She added: "It's not really the injury. My legs are a bit overused."

Lisicki, who is of Polish descent, and Radwanska have known each other since they were children and played juniors tennis together.

"We played some teams championship in Poland that I think was under-10 or 12, so that was really long time ago," Radwanska said. "You know, the time flies, and suddenly we all here playing semifinal of a Grand Slam."

© 2013 New York Times News Service

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