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What the papers say

Sabine Lisicki celebrates her quarter-final victory.
by Clive White
Wednesday 3 July 2013

The smile with which Sabine Lisicki plays the game has meant that her success here at Wimbledon this year has been much appreciated by nearly all. “Fear and loathing is supposed to be what women’s tennis is mostly about,” says James Lawton in The Independent. “Maybe it was this that made the reappearance of Sabine Lisicki, the nerveless conqueror of Serena less than 24 hours earlier, such an uncomplicated pleasure as she mixed power and finesse quite beautifully in her 6-3, 6-2 quarter-final defeat of young Laura Robson’s Estonian persecutor Kaia Kanepi.

“What happened in just one hour and five minutes of near seamless mastery was, you had to suspect, something that might grow into an enduring love affair.”

The German, it seems, knows how to curry favour with the locals, not that the cheery way in which she plays the game hasn’t already done that for her. Writes Lawton: “When the semi-final place with Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska was secured, Lisicki showed off a T-shirt emblazoned with the Union flag in Wimbledon green and asked: “Do you like it?”

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Giles Smith, in The Times, has enjoyed Lisicki’s tennis, too, particularly her defeat of the champion Serena Williams in the previous round. “Not surprisingly, what followed was all a bit “after the Lord Mayor’s fourth round”, writes Smith of Lisicki’s match against the Estonian, Kaia Kanepi. “Against Williams, some of Lisicki’s massively belted groundstrokes flowed over the net so close to the tape they seemed to be part of a research project into aerodynamics,” he says. “Here, she was fitfully impressive in the same way, but with Kanepi struggling to get engaged, the German was never required to keep it coming.

“Even on a slow day, though, Lisicki’s serve is a sight for cold tennis fans. Caught right her mighty first serve climbs into the 120mph bracket, making her virtually unplayable, not to mention a handy card to have in any game of Top Trumps.

“Even her second serve is cut with such venom that it’s up around the receiver’s ears and still climbing by the time it reaches them. It’s one of a very small number of serves that seems to command a backhand smash by way of return.”

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Tim Lewis, in The Guardian, lists the injury setbacks that Kirsten Flipkens has had to contend with on her journey to the semi-finals. “There was a wrist injury in 2010, a debilitating knee problem in 2011 and then, most seriously, in April last year she was diagnosed with blood clots in her calf. She felt sluggish after a flight from Thailand and decided to check it out before heading to a tournament in Tokyo.

Quoting the Belgian, Lewis continues: “‘The doctor told me that if I had taken the flight I would come out blue. You start re-evaluating everything. Winning or losing a tennis match, it doesn’t make much difference.’

“The treatment was successful – though she still takes blood thinners on long-haul flights – but with no money to cover travel costs, her career hung in the balance. At this point, Jean-Pierre Heynderick, a Belgian industrialist and tennis fan, stepped in. Flipkens also started working with [Kim] Clijsters, a four times grand slam winner, as a training partner.”

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The American coach, Nick Bollettieri, in his column in the The Independent, gives the home favourite Andy Murray a “backhanded” compliment in the run-up to his semi-final today against Fernando Verdasco that he cannot see the Spaniard winning.

“He has a big tank of gas on him, and that is what makes him such a strong favourite against Fernando Verdasco this afternoon,” Bollettieri says of the Briton. “He has the shots but that gas means that he will just keep on going. If Verdasco hits the ball back five times, 10 times, 15 times Murray will still be sending it back with interest. He’s the roadrunner, man.”

He continues: “It is unfortunate for Verdasco that one of Murray’s best weapons is his two-handed backhand, and that will negate the Spaniard’s serve when he breaks it wide. If Murray had a one-handed backhand then the contest would be closer. I love Murray’s backhand: for a coach who has shouted out for the two-handed backhand whenever I can it is a thing of beauty for me to watch.”

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Jim White, of The Daily Telegraph, was transported back in time watching the “Battle of the Macs” on No.1 Court as old favourites John and Patrick McEnroe, of the United States, took on Peter McNamara and Paul McNamee, of Australia.

“One thing about McEnroe: he may be 54 but his serve is still a thing of rare beauty. The moment he drew up his left arm and uncoiled his back, arcing the racket in a perfect curve on to the ball, the crowd on Court No.1 was transported back 30 years. Suddenly we were watching his tussles with Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg, those titanic exchanges of electric skill. And for a man of middles ages, it was still potent.

The crowd had wanted to see that, of course, and more of a little something else, as White confirms. “What they wanted was to see him misbehave, to be a bit Maccish, to take them back to a time when his temper stalked the tramlines. He did not disappoint.”

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Kevin Garside, in The Independent, reports on how the success of Agnieszka Radwanska in the ladies singles, and Jerzy Janowicz and Lukasz Kubot, in the gentlemen’s singles, is perceived in Poland. “The progress of Jerzy Janowicz and Lukasz Kubot is not the result of a systematic assault on the game a la Russia,” he writes. “Tennis in Poland is regarded by most as a bourgeois relic, a game for ancient aristos evoking pre-war days before Soviet conquest. The only grass court in the country was to be found at the British Embassy in Warsaw, and that no longer survives.

Garside indicates what success on a tennis court can lead to for a Polish player, even one from a bygone age. “The last Polish player to stir anything like this kind of frenzy was Wojtek Fibak, the posh boy from Poznan, who reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals 33 years ago,” he writes. “Fibak is best known today as the owner of the largest private art collection in Poland.”

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