Talented Lisicki looks to world number one spot
Bruce Emond , The Jakarta Post , Nusa Dua, Bali | Wed, 11/04/2009 11:50 AM | Sports
Lofty comparisons to the legendary Steffi Graf would have many young players shaking in their tennis shoes. German Sabine Lisicki, who has carved out a breakthrough season in 2009, is taking everything in stride.
At this year’s Wimbledon, Lisicki, who had never won a match at the grass-court Grand Slam before, crawled her way back from the brink of defeat against Russian Anna Chakvetadze, upset 5th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia and then met Dane Caroline Wozniacki in the last 16. The encounter included a much YouTubed collision at a changeover between the two off-court friends, but the bump did not rattle Lisicki’s focus as she powered on to victory.
Although she lost to top seed Dinara Safina of Russia in three sets in the quarterfinals, she basked in the opportunity to play on Wimbledon’s hallowed Center Court.
“I love the big stages. That’s where I want to be. I just love playing tennis,” Lisicki says.
A wildcard at this week’s Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions at the Westin Hotel Convention Center, the 20-year-old appears equipped with the versatile game and the confidence to restore some of the glory that German women’s tennis enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s, when it could rely on the talents of Bettina Bunge, Claudia Kohde-Kilsch and Graf. There has been little to get excited about since Graf’s retirement in 1998.
After turning pro in 2006, Lisicki says it took two years of hard work to improve her game to a level where she could compete with the top players. Her breakthrough this year came at the Charleston tournament during the spring US clay-court swing.
Lisicki beat higher ranked Venus Williams of the US, French Marion Bartoli and Wozniacki on her way to the title without dropping a set.
“It was an exciting week. It was a really good match against Venus, and then I just kept on playing and playing.”
Her showing at Wimbledon and solid performances throughout much of the year, including reaching the final at Luxembourg in October, showed that she was not simply a one-tournament wonder. She is currently world ranked 25.
Like most of her peers, Lisicki has a steady baseline game and hits a double-handed backhand. The difference is that she also has the weapon of a powerful serve — her favorite shot — and, unlike players who dread playing the net, she also will move forward to volley.
Lisicki, like Wozniacki and Alexandra Wozniak of Canada, as well as the German-raised Radwanska sisters, is of Polish parentage. She seems bemused by tennis scribes’ speculation about the future Polish “domination” of the sport.
“I don’t know, I was born and raised in Germany,” says Lisicki, who is coached by father Richard. “It’s funny but I think it’s great that we came such a long way in the sport. I don’t know why, but it works.”
It’s not all been a cakewalk for Lisicki. She has suffered a spate of injuries this year, including an ankle injury on matchpoint down against Anastasia Rodionova at the US Open.
But each time she has bounced back, with the resilience to keep on improving.
“My dream always has been to become number one, and I’ll work hard to do it,” says Lisicki, who will begin her campaign Wednesday against France’s Aravane Rezai.
“And also to win a grand slam — any one of them.”