Sabine Lisicki dices with danger but rediscovers form in tense third set to beat Agnieszka Radwanska
German will now face Marion Bartoli in Saturday’s final on Centre Court
Sabine Lisicki after her win over Agnieszka Radwanska. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
It was a give and take match. Sabine Lisicki took and then she gave. She then gave again and finally took. Nobody, not even the German knew whether she was giving or taking, or why, or when, just how. That was her endless charm yesterday, pounding her opponent in one game then handing her back two games in a blink as her artist mother Elisabeth and historian father Richard looked on, gripped in mild terror.
There is nothing parsimonious about Lisicki. She likes to throw her talent around, spread it big and wide, sometimes with little care and certainly without tactical complications. The 46 unforced errors proved that.
Her game is one of wide margins and when it’s off, the ball is scattering line judges, but switched on, with her power in control and her aggression tempered, Agnieszka Radwanska was left chasing shadows.
Three sets of alternate thunder and bewildering calumny came from the German before a long tense final set of an hour and nine minutes, where she finally snatched the match 6-4, 2-6, 9-7 from the wily fourth seed.
“I had a lot of chances,” said a disconsolate Radwanska. “A couple of easy mistakes and it cost me the whole match. I was a break up in the third set. She was serving very well . . . I had a lot of chances just two points from the match and then it just . . . turned the other way.”
The win was narrowly turned by the crowd favourite who was fire to Radwanska’s ice, the third set finally closing with Lisiciki breaking serve for the second time and bringing it home with her own tight deliveries.
Impossible to read, the match had wheeled and veered but was exactly the shot of adrenalin the draw needed after Marion Bartoli woke up from a 20-minute nap in the lockeroom half an hour before her semi-final, then crushed an injured Kirsten Flipkens 6-1, 6-2. Flipkens’ nightmare was calamitous viewing, the French player now in her second final, having fallen to Venus Williams in 2007.
But Lisciki and Radwanska made for bewildering and intriguing viewing and a formidable case study for the sports psychologists, who would struggle to explain how Lisicki could dip so low and like a switch flicked, pick up her game in an instant.
She began normally, breaking Radwanska in the seventh game and closing the set 6-4. The serve was on, the forehand erratic but she was managing the big points. It was then that all the metrics and calculations that go into putting the ball into the court began to muddle.
Radwanska was smart and generous enough to return the ball back to Lisicki and allow her end the match by her own hand, which she almost did, winning only two games both against serve. Radwanska eliminated risk, Lisicki elevated it to 17 unforced errors in the second set, just three from Radwanska for 2-6.
Crowd fell silent
When Lisicki fell 3-0 down in the third the crowd fell silent. Roger Federer aside, they have always loved the players’ hearts on their sleeves, their hopes and ambitions on the grass and the sound track of a wailing diva, and that’s what they got. Miraculously from that maelstrom of upset that had Lisciki steepling towards self destruction, there came relative calm and patience.
Tempered shots came into play. She left court to change her shirt. She came back and the thunder strikes were more accurate. She waited for her moments and found herself serving for the match 5-4 up. Radawanska held tight and saved, and it spiralled on. Lisicki broke serve a second time for 8-7 and served for the match, this time not letting go.
“She wished me luck before the match. She sent me a text. She told me to go for it,” said Lisicki of Steffi Graf, the last German woman to win Wimbledon. Against Serena Williams she was also 3-0 down in the third set before her offensive.
“There is a comparison in that I was down 3-0 in the third and came back to serve it out,” she said. “I just hung in there and played every single point.”
Lisicki meets Bartoli in the final tomorrow afternoon.