After putting a forehand winner away to dump the defending and five-times champion Serena Williams out of last year’s Wimbledon, Sabine Lisicki fell to the ground in disbelief. Given the favourite tag after this victory despite being ranked 7th highest of the 8 quarter finalists, many believed it would be the German’s year after the slew of top seeds had fell early on.
Wins over Kaia Kanepi and Agnieszka Radwanska would book her place in the final but Lisicki froze on the biggest stage of them all, losing 6-1 6-4 in under an hour and a half to Marion Bartoli. A late rally from *1-5 15-40 ensured that it would not be complete embarrassment but she would have hoped for so much more.
Despite the disappointment, Lisicki was expected to kick on and prove she could be a constant in the top 10. However, a 17-13 record littered with retirements is not much to shout about, nor the 3R-2R-2R run at slams since Wimbledon.
For the first time in her career, Lisicki will come into a slam with expectation rather than hope weighing heavily on her back. Given that a first round exit will see her drop outside the top 40, ranking pressure is also looming large. Other than past winners, there probably isn’t a player with a grass court pedigree at her level. With two quarter finals, a semi final and a runner up spot, she is nearing ever closer.
It’s hardly been an ideal preparation for her as she looks to go one better this time round. After shoulder troubles hindered her booming serve at the start of the year, a right wrist injury picked up at the French Open means she has not played a match on grass prior to Wimbledon. She was scheduled to play the AEGON Classic in Birmingham but was forced to withdraw. A winner of the event in 2011, she received a wildcard to Wimbledon which led to her best run at SW19 until last year.
Additionally, her and coach Martina Hingis have come to a “mutual agreement” on splitting just days before the beginning of the tournament. The pair had also played doubles with each other but Hingis played with Flavia Pennetta at Eastbourne while her and Vera Zvonareva are a wildcard pairing next week in the Women’s Doubles. Coaching instability is nothing new with Lisicki who split with both Ricardo Sanchez and Wim Fissette last year. Fissette is currently working his magic with Simona Halep, now at a career high ranking of No.3.
One positive for Lisicki is a draw that on paper could see her match last year’s final placing. Her first round match with Julia Glushko will open Centre Court on Tuesday after the retirement of Marion Bartoli, a decision some saw to be disrespectful to the more decorated Serena Williams.
2014 AEGON Classic winner Ana Ivanovic looms in Round 3 if the seeds hold. Ivanovic was impressive in dispatching of a weak field in Birmingham without losing a set but an on-form Lisicki is a totally different prospect. Seventh seed Jelena Jankovic has never made a quarter final at Wimbledon in singles while potential seeded quarter finalists include Simona Halep and Carla Suarez Navarro. Halep has never made it past the second round in three attempts but given her dramatic improvement over the last 14 months, past performances seem irrelevant when analysing Halep as a threat or lack thereof.
There is also the oddity of the “French Open winner’s curse” which if repeated would see Lisicki in her second straight final. Since 2009, the French Open winner has lost to Lisicki on each occasion at that year’s Wimbledon.
- Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 7-5 (3R, 2009)
- Na Li 3-6 6-4 8-6 (2R, 2011)
- Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-3 (4R, 2012)
- Serena Williams 6-2 1-6 6-4 (4R, 2013)
This year’s winner Maria Sharapova can’t meet Lisicki until the semi finals stage and would likely have to reverse a lengthy losing streak against Serena Williams to make it that far but if this absurd trend carries on it would go a long way to erasing the disappointment of the past year since her final loss.
— Sabine Lisicki (@sabinelisicki) June 17, 2014