Today’s blog is about Wimbledon and women’s tennis, but whilst acknowledging the fantastic achievement of Marion Bartoli, who won yesterday’s ladies singles final in straight sets, I want to concentrate on her opponent, the German Sabine Lisicki.
Before I do though, this year’s women’s competition has been compelling. The top seed and overwhelming favourite lost relatively early in the competition. The loudest grunters succumbed to injury or unexpected defeat and by the time the semi-finals were decided, a first-time Wimbledon champion was guaranteed. It was wonderful to watch.
Anyway . . . it is a particular British trait to both support an underdog and feel some sort of emotional attachment to what is perceived as a gallant loser. Sabine Lisicki lost yester-day; in fact she was soundly beaten, but the bare scoreline of 6-1, 6-4 only tells part of the story.
In reaching the final, the twenty-three year old twenty-third seed from Troisdorf did something that almost guaranteed instant popularity – she beat Serena Williams. But it wasn’t so much the result, but the manner in which the victory was achieved – recovering from being 3-0 down in the final set after being swept aside 6-1 in the second. We take ability for granted – you wouldn’t be in the competition if you weren’t a very good player – but to show such incredible strength (of mind as well as body) to overturn what looked a decisive deficit and beat one of the most dominant players of any generation was quite remarkable.
For me though, it was what followed that truly endeared her to the crowd – and those watching at home. The smile that never left her face as she stopped to sign autographs (and she signed more than probably any other player) was replaced by tears of joy during the post-match interview, as the enormity of her achievement finally hit home.
That result raised expectation – perhaps unfairly – but despite occasional lapses, Sabine continued to produce brilliant tennis when it really mattered and duly reached her first Grand Slam final.
Yesterday’s occasion clearly affected the young German, she froze and for the first time in the competition, she was unable to summon up the consistency and shots needed to overcome her opponent. The emotion Sabine had displayed off-court momentarily surfaced during the match itself – that will be seen as weakness by some, but to wear your heart so openly on your sleeve will make the majority of the British public warm to you, and so it proved.
After the match, the presentation, the interview and the photographs, Sabine walked off the Centre Court, stopping yet again to sign autographs. As a professional tennis player, this must have been the toughest moment of her career and she was probably desperate for the sanctuary of the locker room where her emotions could be released in more private surroundings. Yet by staying behind, she will have made the day for many an autograph hunter and I noticed that as she finally made to leave the court, she turned round and returned because someone had been missed.
Now that is true class.
Rafael Nadal showed a similar humility after suffering an unprecedented first round defeat, but these people are most definitely the minority – but far more worthy of mention as a consequence.
During the post-match interview Marion Bartoli said she was sure Sabine would reach another Grand Slam final. I’m not sure you it’s possible to say she will, but she most certainly can – and one thing is for sure, Sabine Lisicki will get a wonderful ovation every time she returns to SW19. She is a fantastic tennis player, but more importantly, a genuinely nice person and whilst Marion Bartoli will deservedly grab the headlines, Sabine Lisicki is one runner-up who won’t be forgotten.
All my own work... almost.