Twenty five years ago, on July 2, 1988, Steffi Graf won her first Wimbledon title, defeating Martina Navratilova 5-7, 6-2, 6-1. Graf is not just one of the greatest tennis players ever but she is also undoubtedly the greatest German tennis player — with due apologies to all the men out there.
But Sabine Lisicki, who defeated Kaia Kanepi most effectively on July 2, 2013 in her quarter-final match at Wimbledon, says she feels no pressure at all.
Brave words? But then Lisicki has shown some brave play at Wimbledon and not for the first time either. By defeating Serena Williams in the round of 16, she improved her own record of defeating French Open champions at Wimbledon. But she did more than that. She hung on to her game and her resolve. Most importantly, she did not get afflicted by “big fish” syndrome — unlike Steve Darcis and Sergiy Stakhovsky, conquerors of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who then collapsed in the next rounds.
In fact, to steal a line from American Idol, Lisicki looks like she’s in it to win it. Prediction is a tricky business and I have no clear understandings of planetary positions and how they affect us (it’s raining anyway). But the way Lisicki is playing and the confidence that she exudes give her as fair a chance at winning the apple cart as anyone else. Or even, perhaps, the Venus Rosewater Dish.
Her next opponent is a tricky one however. Agnieszka Radwanska just defeated China’s Li Na in an up and down match on Centre Court, with a medical timeout, a rain delay and then under the roof. Judging from Lisicki’s press conference, she might have been happier with Li Na as her next opponent, especially the way she defeated the Chinese player here in 2011. Her head to head with Li Na is 2 wins to one loss. With Radwanska, they’ve split the two matches, both on hard courts and not since early 2012.
But how about this comparison: after 56 minutes, Radwanska and Li were at 5 games to six. After 55 minutes, Lisicki had won the first set and was up 5-2 in the second. Radwanska and Li played for almost three hours. At one hour and four minutes, Lisicki was through to a Wimbledon semi-final. True, Kaia Kanepi neither has the depth nor the experience of a Li Na but she is a strong player with some heavy strokes. Lisicki played some inspired tennis against her, mixing up soft hands at the net with some solid ground strokes. It was an all-round tennis game she played.
She doesn’t underestimate her opponent either: “Radwanska plays a smart game. She was in the final last year and has confidence.” But Lisicki has the confidence of taking down last year’s champion, a privilege Radwanska has not shared. “I’m better now than I was two years ago,” is her parting shot.
The locker room as Lisicki pointed out, is emptying out. That’s fair warning to the players who are left.