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Sabine Lisicki ready to follow in Graf's footsteps

Sabine Lisicki delighted with her quart-final victory.
by Alix Ramsay
Thursday 4 July 2013

It is one thing to beat Serena Williams and become the talk of the town for 24 hours, but it is another thing again to back that win up with another blistering performance. But that is what Sabine Lisicki did on Tuesday to beat Kaia Kanepi in straight sets. Now she finds herself in the semi-finals of Wimbledon. German tennis rejoices.

Lisicki’s run through to the last four is the first time a German woman has done so well in in SW19 since... oh, hang on... since the last time Lisicki reached the semis here two years ago. And there we were, thinking we could squeeze in a Steffi Graf reference here. Then again, the whole of Germany has been referencing Miss Graf since that day in 2011 when their Sabine faced Maria Sharapova on Centre Court. That really was the first time since Graf’s day that a German woman had launched a serious challenge for a major title.

This time, though, it is all so different. The cheery, smiling, happy-go-lucky face that Lisicki presents to the world is hiding a serious, determined and experienced campaigner. She knows what it feels like to be in the semi-finals of Wimbledon; she knows how to play on a grass court and she believes that this is a winnable title.

Even when she faced Williams on Monday, she was buoyed by the thought that she has a reputation for beating French Open champions when they hop over the Channel to the grass: Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2009, Li Na in 2011 and Maria Sharapova last summer (that was a fourt- round showdown). Williams, then, was just another scalp for the taking.

“Already before the match I was ready for that,” she said. “I went out on the court to win the match. That's my goal. That's every time I go out on the court. It gave me a little more energy knowing that she won the French Open and I beat the French Open champion three times in a row in my last three appearances, so it was a good omen.”

Back in Germany, the tennis fans are getting over-excited. When Lisicki had to play Sharapova in the semi-finals two years ago, her adoring public knew she was up against a serial grand slam champion. It was a chance to reach the final, but not much of a chance. But most of the casual tennis watchers in Germany have no clue who Agnieszka Radwanska is (they seem to overlooked the little ‘No.4’ sitting beside her name on the draw sheet, the numeral that indicates her place in the world pecking order). They think Sabine has one foot in the final already.

Certainly, Lisicki has it within her grasp to reach her first major final. She is built for a grass court with a thumping serve, a love of slice and a range of delicate drop shots but it is what is between the ears that matters. The way she came back from that huge win against Williams on Monday and headed out to No.1 Court the following day to squash Kanepi was impressive. There was no let-down, no jitters and, surprisingly, no smile. That came later, along with the giggles and the celebration. But when she had work to do, she had her match face on and nothing was going to stop her achieving her goal.

For the record, she has played Radwanska twice before with honours even and Barbara Rittner, Germany’s Fed Cup captain, reckons that whoever wins this semi-final will go on to lift the trophy. And if that winner just happens to be Sabine Lisicki, we will all be free to make as many Steffi Graf references as we like.

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