Thursday 26 June 2014
The smell of grass, the feel of grass and the sheer joy of playing on that surface seem to do wonders for Sabine Lisicki. The Florida-based German, runner-up here 12 months ago, was in frolicking form on No.3 Court as she moved impressively into the last 32 of the ladies’ singles by defeating Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5 in one hour 19 minutes.
Lisicki had beaten the same opponent with rather more difficulty in three sets on the clay of Madrid earlier this year, when she was still making her way back to full match fitness following a shoulder injury, so she was especially happy that her game was approaching its more formidable level on the surface she enjoys best.
“In Madrid I still had problems with my injury so I was struggling a little bit there,” Lisicki explained. “But I’m feeling much better here. I was ready for it. I know she can hit very good serves, so I needed to be ready.”
This contest had been billed as The Big Bash, since Pliskova came into this match as the leading server of aces in the ladies’ game this year with 233 – better even than Serena Williams – while Lisicki’s 297 aces in the 2013 season was second only to Serena, and 45 of those aces were struck at the 2013 Championships. On the day Lisicki ran out a clear winner in this department, with seven aces to Pliskova’s two, though she also led the Czech in the less desirable area of double-faults by five to two.
More willing to approach the net, Lisicki dominated the opening set and won it in just 24 minutes. The second set was a different matter, however. Pliskova won the opening game, then missed break point opportunities to go 2-0 up. She was soon cheered by the break, which put her 4-2 in the lead, only for Lisicki to show why she and Wimbledon’s grass are in such harmony by breaking back and then breaking again to go ahead for the first time in the set at 6-5 and confidently serving out for a place in the third round.
This is her sixth Wimbledon, and in addition to being the 2013 finalist, Lisicki was a semi-finalist here in 2011 and a quarter-finalist in both 2009 and 2012. So how does she fancy her chances this year? “To be honest I don’t think about it,” she insisted. “It’s in the back of my mind that I’ve always done so well here. In the previous five years I’ve always played great tennis here. It gives you confidence and also to have so much support from the crowd is amazing.”
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