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Rush job for 2013 runner-up Sabine Lisicki

by Vivienne Christie
Tuesday 24 June 2014

If one established Wimbledon tradition was tweaked through the post-tournament retirement of 2013 champion Marion Bartoli, another emerging one was underlined as Sabine Lisicki continued her fine form at the All England Club with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Julia Glushko.

Opening the second day of play on Centre Court is an honour that’s typically reserved for the defending women's champion but as the 2013 finalist, Lisicki filled in for the now-retired Bartoli admirably – something she was especially determined to do when the latter instead participated in a moving pre-match ceremony with a student from the Elena Baltacha Tennis Academy.

“I think it was a very nice gesture that Marion came out with the little child in memory of Elena Baltacha,” Lisicki said, referencing the coin toss that was conducted by nine-year-old Elle Robus-Miller. “I think that moment made it even more special.”

It provided a moving precursor to a match that Lisicki dictated from start to finish, the German showing the best of her power-packed game in the 57-minute progression. “I was quite nervous,” she admitted. “I played my first Grand Slam final last year and I'm returning to the court where I played it on. That's normal that there are some nerves involved.”

Not that the pressure affected her performance. While Lisicki’s trademark serve perhaps wasn’t quite the force it can be, her ability to apply pressure was evidenced by the 16 break point opportunities she established – six of which she converted against the overpowered Glushko.

The first of those breaks occurred in the opening game, establishing a powerful momentum that was always going to be a challenge for the 79th ranked Israeli to break. Lisicki’s intentions were best symbolised as Glushko served in the fifth game, which went to seven deuces before the German converted the eighth break point of that game.

There was a brief lapse when Lisicki dropped her own serve immediately but her 17 winners – many of them coming from some superbly placed forehands that had the crowd enraptured – ultimately told the story of the 24-year-old’s deeply entrenched affinity for the grass court game.

“I don't know what it is, but I guess because it's such a special place to me, it always has been,” she explained when asked why she saves her best tennis for the All England Club. “Since I was growing up, it just always gets every inch out of me, every (bit of) energy, it just gets the best out of me. I think it does something magical to me when I come back here.”

The timing couldn’t be better for Lisicki, who has advanced beyond the second round of a tournament only once this year (with a third round finish in Madrid). After becoming the first German to reach a Grand Slam final since Steffi Graf in 1999 at Wimbledon, she faltered through injury in the second half of 2013.

“With my shoulder injury, I was struggling. I probably shouldn't have played, and I played,” Lisicki conceded. “But, you know, it's about now. I'm getting my rhythm back and playing the way I can play and get the confidence again.”

That’s especially true at the All England Club, with Lisicki having drawn on some powerful memories – including her upset of world No. 1 Serena Wiliams and last year’s thrilling semi-final win over Agnieszka Radwanska – as she navigated form and injury challenges over the past year.

With her habit of competing so well here, Lisicki is relishing the chance to continue the run against Karolina Pliskova or Karin Knapp in the second round. “It's just a place that means so much to me,” she beamed. “I love that court so much.”

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