Friday 22 September 2017

Wimbledon: Fans' favourite Lisicki refuses to keep emotions in check

Sabine Lisicki
Sabine Lisicki

Theo Merz

Sabine Lisicki is favourite to win today's final against France's Marion Bartoli and become the first German to land the women's title since Steffi Graf in 1996.

If the seeds had held sway, Centre Court would today be savouring a rematch of the 2005 showdown between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Instead, the finalists are both attempting to win their first Grand Slam event.

Although Lisicki is seeded No 23, eight below Bartoli, history is on her side. The German, who is allergic to grass, has won three of their four encounters.

But Bartoli, a player unlike any other on the women's Tour, will give her a run for her money. She has been here before, reaching the 2007 final having defeated top seed Justine Henin in the semis. In the Frenchwoman's only previous appearance in a Grand Slam final, she went on to lose in three sets to Venus Williams.

To add to Bartoli's idiosyncratic style of play – constantly jumping and running on the spot, her aggressive double-handed forehand and backhand, her swinging service motion – she has developed a reputation as eccentric off court.

Asked how she came back to beat Henin from one set down in that match, Bartoli explained she had spotted celebrity crush Pierce Brosnan in the crowd and did not want to embarrass herself in front of him.

The 29-year-old admitted she was still feeling drowsy during her semi-final against Kristen Flipkens after an unscheduled nap, and was "seeing the ball like a football". She also once told journalists she had an IQ of 175, higher than Albert Einstein.

But this quirkiness has been accompanied by darker times. Earlier this year she split with her coach, the father who had overseen her career, after reported personal disagreements.

She would not address the issue directly yesterday, but said: "I pretty much hit rock bottom. But I kept my head up and I just wanted to win some matches again and have some good memories on court again. That's what drove me every single day to practise hard, and try to improve on my game and my physical shape. What does not kill you makes you stronger."

Perhaps because of her serious demeanour on court, she has found herself on the wrong side of the Wimbledon crowd this year and was booed when she asked to stop play because of spitting rain in her quarter-final against Sloane Stephens.

By contrast, they practically adopted Lisicki as an honorary Brit after her shock victory over Serena Williams in the fourth round. The only criticism levelled against hard-hitting Lisicki – nicknamed 'Doris Becker' after her mighty serve was compared to that of her Wimbledon-winning compatriot – is that she displays her emotions too readily on court.

"I enjoy myself out there," the 23-year-old said yesterday. "Why shouldn't I show it? I'm an emotional person. It helps me to stay relaxed, and play my best tennis. I won't change anything." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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