The Mystery of Sabine Lisicki

Today will mark the first of a series of posts discussing some of the inconsistent women of the WTA.  It seems like year in, year out we here the same story with Sabine Lisicki.  Can she get her game together throughout the whole year and rise into the top ten? Well at 25 years old, the German has not put it all together yet. This poses the questions: why hasn't it all come together if it will, and will it ever come together?  Friday marked her exit in the BNP Paribas Open as she lost in the semifinals to Jelena Jankovic, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.  With this run, she proved to everybody that she can succeed on hard courts especially with the help of her booming serve and forehand combo.  Let's see if this run can get her going to some great results for the rest of the year on tournaments other than grass.

Let's kick off things with how Lisicki has done before this WTA Premier Mandatory.  Before Indian Wells, Sabine Lisicki had won one match all year, in Dubai, before losing in the next round to Ana Ivanovic.  Most of her losses have come to players that aren't overpowering or are much further below her in the rankings.  A perfect example of this was her loss to Alexandra Dulgheru in her first match in Kuala Lumpur as the Romanian is barely hanging on in the top hundred.  

Lisicki kicked off her Indian Wells run in the second round after receiving a first round bye.  She knocked off the Italian, Roberta Vinci, in three sets and followed that up by knocking off another Italian, Sara Errani, in straight sets.  In the fourth round, she would hold off rising star, Caroline Garcia, 6-4, 6-4, to set up a quarterfinal showdown with defending champion Flavia Pennetta.  Lisicki's dominant serving and groundstrokes threw off Pennetta in the first set allowing her to take the first set, 6-4.  In the second, Pennetta was serving down match point, but she was able to save it and force a tiebreaker.  This is where the German cracked, and you could sense it as well.  The serve didn't have as much pop, unforced errors were being hit left and right, and Pennetta was able to dictate allowing her to take the second set.  The third set was quite the battle as each woman saved break points to get it to the tiebreaker which Lisicki would end up winning.  After taking the first set today, the German looked gassed as her match against Jankovic wore on since fatigue would set in having played six sets in about a 24-hour span.  

As you all know, Sabine Lisicki has made her claim to fame on deep Wimbledon runs in recent history.  This has made grass her favorite surface because before all of this, she was diagnosed with an allergy to grass which medication has allowed her to overcome.  Since 2009, she has made at least the quarterfinals in every Wimbledon she has appeared in, including appearances in the semifinals and finals in 2011 and 2013 respectively.  In 2011, she became the second women in Wimbledon history to take a wildcard and make the semifinals.  On her way to doing that, she knocked off third-ranked Li Na and ninth-ranked Marion Bartoli before falling to runner-up Maria Sharapova in the semifinals.  

2013 was the year she made her maiden and only Grand Slam final appearance.  She would knock off Samantha Stosur in three sets in the third round, then knocked off top-ranked Serena Williams in three sets in the fourth round.  After a fairly routine win over Kaia Kanepi in the quarters, she set up a showdown with the Ninja, Aga Radwanska.  This match brought contrasting styles with Lisicki's overwhelming serve, groundstrokes and a delightful vollley game compared to Radwanska's finesse game.  This match was a back and forth with some of the best shot making from the women's game this writer has ever seen, but Lisicki would grind it out to win it 9-7 in the third.  However, fatigue and the moment of being in the Wimbledon Final had gotten to her as she was unable to register much falling to Marion Bartoli 6-1, 6-4.   

She may seem like a grass-court specialist, but sadly that title does not exist anymore due to the tiny amount of tournaments played on grass.  Even if it did exist, she isn't one because she's won titles and had successful results on hard courts.  What to really look out for in the near future is if she can get results at smaller tournaments, because if she can do that, she is on her way to moving on up in the rankings.  If she does not, she'll remain steady around the 20-30 range rankingwise and will be hoping that another deep Wimbledon run will propel her up.  

Now to answer the questions that were posed earlier.  Why hasn't her game all come together yet?  Well, she succeeds so much on grass because the court plays faster and has such a low bounce to it.  With hard courts, the speed varies as well as the bounce making it easier for her serves to be returned.  For the rest of her game, on hard courts, she isn't dictating points as much as she is on grass meaning she is more prone to errors and more prone to playing defensive tennis which is not her forte.  Also, she is a confidence player.  When she has confidence, she is one of the most difficult women to beat on tour.  When she's struggling, she's vulnerable to be defeated by anyone.  Will her game ever come together?  Well, who knows with Lisicki, if she can ride the wave of momentum she had from Indian Wells and win smaller tournaments plus win a couple of matches in these WTA Premier and Premier Mandatories, it would be fair to say her game would be coming together.  If she doesn't succeed this year, it may be next year or even later, which would make her a late bloomer.  For women's tennis especially in Germany, it would be phenomenal if Sabine Lisicki could put it all together, even if it were only for a few years.  If Lisicki were to figure it out and put it all together, she could finally achieve that chance to kiss the Wimbledon title and her power could be massive in getting Germany an elusive Fed Cup title.