By Jane Voigt
July 4, 2013 — Sabine Lisicki and Marion Bartoli were in their zones today … Centre Court Wimbledon. Their mantra — There’s no place like home.
They strode onto that hallowed court confident, Lisicki plugged into her tunes and wearing a tailor-made smile, Bartoli with her eyes cast downward and a pep to her step.
Bartoli went through first to the final with a lopsided win over an obviously hampered Kirsten Flipkens 61 62. It was the shortest semifinal since Venus Williams defeated Dinara Safina in the semis of 2009 Wimbledon.
This will be Bartoli’s second attempt at the most coveted title in tennis. She lost to Venus in 2007, which was the French woman’s first top-ten year on the WTA Tour.
Before her interview with Gary Richardson from BBC TV, Marion hugged Flipkens not once, but twice.
“I wanted to congratulate her for a great Wimbledon,” Bartoli told Richardson. “I wanted to give her a hug.”
Bartoli has been on tour for 13 years and has earned 7 career titles.
Bartoli is frequently chided for her peculiar gestures between points and sometimes embroiled relationship with her father/coach, Dr. Walter Bartoli. However, she has not had him by her side lately. Instead, her team consists of Amelie Mauresmo, a physio, and hitting partner. Mauresmo is the only other Frenchwoman to play in a Wimbledon final. She won the title in 2006.
“We have so much fun all the time,” Marion told BBC TV.
This lighter environment is quite a change from her father’s regimes, who shaped his daughter’s game after that of Monica Seles: two hands off both sides. Dr. Bartoli’s odd training techniques and gadgets, which, by the way, propelled his daughter into the highest tiers of women’s tennis, gained quite a bit of air time. Here’s one training session (scroll down the page) from The Montreal Gazette.
During the semifinal today, Bartoli’s concentration was tight. Showing all sorts of heart afterward, she was relentless against Flipkens. For a woman who loves to paint, which takes a soft touch, Bartoli drilled shots that left the discouraged Belgian miffed.
“I saw the ball like a football ball,” she said, again to BBC TV.
Bartoli has not dropped a set in six rounds and is the highest seeded player in the final at No. 15. Lisicki is seeded No. 23. With a title from either woman, they will join Maria Sharapova (2004) and Venus Williams (2005, 2007) as the only non-top-ten seeds to win Wimbledon in the Open Era.
If Aga Radwanska, the No. 4 seed, had she squeaked past Sabine ‘Boom Boom’ Lisicki, she would have been the one constant in an otherwise upside-down Wimbledon. Radwanska was the highest seeded player in today’s semifinals; and, she was last year’s finalist.
However, up 3-0 in the third set with Lisicki ‘off her boil,’ as one English ESPN commentator put it, Radwanska could not stand in the way of a resurgence from Lisicki reminiscent of her third-set comeback against Serena Williams. The experience resurfaced in Lisicki’s mind, too, and helped her recovery.
“I thought, ‘oh, you’ve done it against Serena, just hang in there'” she told BBC TV. “That gave me so much confidence. I’m just so happy, so happy to be able to finish it.”
Lisicki then re-started her game and stopped mimicking that of Radwanska — deep-knee bend ground strokes, plus slower and safe serves. The German evened the match at 3-games all, served once for the final at 5-4, and then again at 8-7. She fell to her back after the last point was hers, sobbing with joy. The scoreline: 64 26 9-7.
“I fought with all my heart,” Sabine said.
She is the first German into the Wimbledon final since Steffi Graf in 1999. Sabine told the BBC that Graf had wished her good luck in a Tweet.
Bartoli and Lisicki officially put to pasture two touch players. Radwanska is the absolute best at drop shots, redirecting the ball, and confounding opponents. However, her puffy serve is a detriment. A power hitter like Lisicki made mincemeat of them, when her confidence was whole.
Same with Bartoli.
Given that Flipkens had beaten the former Wimbledon champ, Petra Kvitova, who is no slouch in the power department, Bartoli took advantage of Flipkens’ damaged body. She returned serves with an extra measure of aggression while Flipkens was left pinned to the baseline.
Lisicki’s final berth has been anticipated, but long in realization. She has missed many months on tour due to injuries, mostly to her ankles. She fell in the opening rounds at Family Circle Cup, after winning it the previous year as a wildcard. She ended her run at the U. S. Open in 2009 on match point, and was taken off court in a wheelchair.
“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, after reaching the semifinals.
Bartoli has had her share of down moments this year, the first the absence of her father and the difference that made to her perspective of the game. She injured her ankle at Roland Garros, too, and dropped out of the grass warmup tournament at Eastbourne with a virus. Yet, she still believed she could do well at Wimbledon.
Bartoli and Lisicki speak about their love of Wimbledon often. “Whenever I am back here, I have a smile on my face,” Bartoli said. Lisicki said, “I just love stepping out on that court.”