Germany's Sabine Lisicki eyes dream end to Wimbledon fairytale
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Sabine Lisicki of Germany plays a return to Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland Women's singles semifinal match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Thursday, July 4, 2013. AP PhotoGermany's Sabine Lisicki admits winning the Wimbledon final against Marion Bartoli on Saturday would be the perfect way to cap her remarkable recovery from a devastating injury that threatened to ruin her career.
When Lisicki walks onto Centre Court for her first Grand Slam final this weekend it will be both the culmination of a childhood dream and also a fitting end to a tale of redemption that started three years ago.
The 23-year-old German's joyful celebration at the conclusion of Thursday's dramatic 6-4, 2-6, 9-7 win over Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska was a far cry from the dark days of 2010 when she was on crutches for months after sustaining a serious left ankle injury at Indian Wells.
Unable to walk and with her promising tennis career in the balance, Lisicki was at a crossroads.
But she refused to bow to suggestions that it might be better to leave tennis rather than risk further damage to her body.
And after five months of rehabilitation, she was finally able to return to action.
Even then the journey back to top had to be taken one step at a time.
By the end of 2010 her ranking had slipped from 23 to 179 and in March 2011, she was down at 218.
But later that year she reached the Wimbledon semi-finals as a wildcard and hasn't looked back since.
Beating French 15th seed Bartoli in a battle of two players both looking for their first Grand Slam title would be the icing on the cake for Lisicki, who has become the darling of the Centre Court with her beaming smile and all-action play. "I always believed. Always. No matter what happened. I can still remember when the doctor told me that I have to be on crutches the next six weeks," Lisicki said.
"That period made me such a much stronger person and player. I know anything is possible after learning how to walk again.
"I love the sport so much and I miss it when I cannot be out there on the court. It just gives me the belief to overcome anything." Lisicki's tale of triumph in adversity carries extra resonance at Wimbledon, where her compatriot Steffi Graf enjoyed so many great days.
Victory this weekend would make Lisicki Germany's first champion at a major since Graf beat Martina Hingis to claim the 1999 French Open.
Graf, who sent Lisicki a good-luck text ahead of the semi-final, was also the last German to reach a final at a major when she was runner-up to Lindsay Davenport at Wimbledon that same year.
And Lisicki, who caused one of the great Wimbledon shocks when she defeated five-time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round this year, admits success at the All England Club would fulfil a wish she first had as a child at home in Troisdorf.
"I've been dreaming about winning Wimbledon since I'm a little girl," she said.
"The first time I was here I fell in love with Wimbledon.
"That's why I said it's the best place to play my first Grand Slam final. I just can't wait to play." History favours Lisicki, who has won three of her four meetings with Bartoli.
But the wilfully eccentric Bartoli, famous for her bizarre on-court mannerisms, swept into her second Wimbledon final with a 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens in just 62 minutes.
Bartoli was beaten by Venus Williams in her only previous Grand Slam final appearance at Wimbledon in 2007.
But she has rediscovered her best form since ditching her father Walter, who was her long-time coach, and hiring former Wimbledon winner Amelie Mauresmo.
"If you compare the speed of my shots, the way I'm moving, I'm just doing everything better than six years ago," Bartoli said.
"I've been growing up. I've been having some tough times, but I've always been able to bounce back, practice hard and believe in myself.
"I felt like those kind of attitudes should be rewarded at some point and they were this year."