Tuesday 20 February 2018

Wimbledon: Lisicki – Pain of learning to walk again makes me savour every moment in the spotlight

Sabine Lisicki
Sabine Lisicki

Oliver Brown

'Laughing girl', 'Doris Becker', call her what you will. Sabine Lisicki is cutting a swathe across these lawns by virtue of her fearless play and natural ebullience, assuring the German of crowd-favourite status tomorrow when she faces off against Agnieszka Radwanska in her second Wimbledon semi-final.

While she was ruthlessness personified in dispatching Estonia's Kaia Kanepi 6-3 6-3, just 24 hours after toppling Serena Williams in the greatest upset of the fortnight so far, she spent most of the ensuing press conference giggling.

How, the 23-year-old was asked, did she come by this combination of ferocious game-face and coquettish charm?

Lapsing unexpectedly into more earnest mode, Lisicki said: "It is all about the passion to be on the court, which I learned from the ankle injury I had in the past.

"Three years ago when I couldn't walk, I had to learn how to walk again, and that made me appreciate every moment out there so much more. That's why I don't let anybody take that away from me."

In 2010 Lisicki was not even at Wimbledon, marginalised by her ankle agony and struggling to fathom any route back to the court. And yet in 2013, she has rebounded to universal acclaim as conqueror of Serena, feared for her natural grass-court gifts and ready to make a serious tilt at a maiden Grand Slam title.

"We have to appreciate how fortunate we are to have two healthy legs," she said, still absorbing the drama of her comeback.

"Being on crutches, you can't carry anything. You need the help of somebody else. To go even further than I did before the injury gives me a lot of strength. It's a different feeling when I am out there now."

Blessed with a prodigiously powerful serve, Lisicki has the opportunity to reach her first major final and also to become the first German woman to hold the Venus Rosewater Dish since Steffi Graf in 1996.

Even if she falls short, though, one senses that her enhanced sense of perspective will enable her to temper the disappointment. "First of all, to have your hobby as a job is something that not a lot of people can say," she argued, illuminating the attitude that has catapulted her from journeywoman to front-page star.

"The travelling around, playing in the biggest stadiums in the world, the centre courts, is what I love the most."

To improve upon her previous run to the last four in 2011, when she lost to Maria Sharapova, Lisicki needs to overcome the formidable road block of Radwanska, last summer's finalist here.

The world No 4 ensured that Poland would have one representative in both the men's and women's semi-finals, given today's encounter between Jerzy Janowicz and Lukas Kubot, by vanquishing Li Na 7-6 2-6 6-2 in a compelling two-hour tussle.

Lisicki proved her versatility against Kanepi yesterday, allying some remarkable returning to her fearsome serve to break in the opening game and take the set.

She briefly fell behind in the second as a consequence of two double-faults, but reeled off fourth straight games to subdue her increasingly fragile opponent and progress to a date with Radwanska. The task for the pride of Krakow was far more fraught, as she overcame heavy strapping to her thighs and a medical time-out to come through in three sets.

She has close knowledge of Lisicki, herself of Polish extraction, saying of their impending match-up: "We played in juniors together – time flies. It is great to face someone you have known for so many years.

"One moment we are playing in U-10 events and the next, here we are in the semi-final of a Slam." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Wimbledon men's quarter-finals,

Live, TG4/BBC2, 1.0

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