Fighters collide: Lisicki refuses to let up in upset of No. 1 Sharapova
There were tears and smiles and a ton of personality from Sabine Lisicki, and the Court 1 crowd roared its approval. In a stunning display of power and nerve, Lisicki had just knocked off the No. 1 player in the world, and the 6-4, 6-3 scores indicated just how decisive the victory had been.
Every player on tour knows there can't be even a hint of letup against Maria Sharapova, lest the momentum take a 180-degree turn. There were times in Monday's final game, Lisicki netting forehands on consecutive match points, when it was logical to wonder if Sharapova could come all the way back.
"Well, I'm a fighter, too," said the beaming Lisicki. "I fight to the last point."
She couldn't have ended the match with more authority. Blessed with one of the most devastating serves in the game, Lisicki unleashed a second-serve ace right down the T. The moment nearly overwhelmed her, and she acknowledged the crowd's adulation through misty eyes.
"I just love this tournament, the grass, the crowd, I love it all," Lisicki told the BBC as she came off the court. "I just went for my shots, really from the first point on. That's the only way I was going to beat her."
It's the way Petra Kvitova managed to beat Sharapova in last year's final, although the Czech left-hander's biggest weapons were her unerring inside-out-forehands and cross-court backhands. The 15th-ranked Lisicki notched this upset on the strength of big first serves and uninhibited returns.
So once again, the penthouse of the women's tour gets thrown into chaos. There were those who forecast an extended run in the No. 1 position for Sharapova after she won the French Open, but now she has lost that ranking (either Victoria Azarenka or Agnieszka Radwanska will own it by tournament's end). The essence of this tour is unpredictability, a sense that no one is truly in charge, and that is absolutely the case as Wimbledon begins its second week.
They call this the greatest day in tennis: six fourth-round matches, covering both men and women, and for anyone prowling the grounds with all-court access on Wimbledon's second Monday, no explanation was necessary. A few ticks short of 2 p.m., London time, here was the kaleidoscope of drama: Francesca Schiavone was up a set on defending women's champion Kvitova, Serena Williams was trailing Yaroslava Shvedova 3-2 in the third, Lisicki had taken the first set from Sharapova, and Roger Federer had left the court during the first set of his match against Xavier Malisse due to an undisclosed ailment.
The other storylines eventually reverted to logic, but Lisicki never let up against Sharapova, against whom she had lost all three previous meetings. There was a rain delay of some 20 minutes -- quite odd, given that the Serena-Shvedova match never shut down -- and the way Lisicki had been serving, Sharapova probably welcomed the break.
The match's defining moment came in the second game of the second set, when Sharapova delivered two consecutive double-faults to hand a break point to Lisicki. The next serve came hard and fast, and Lisicki answered with a forehand winner for a 2-0 lead, typical of the punishing returns she was hitting all day.
"From the very start of the match, I was hitting the ball so clean that I felt I could win," Lisicki said in the interview room. "When I got that break in the second set, I knew I was going to take it home."
Sharapova indicated that no one should be too surprised by the result. "She's always had that potential, and she did really well here last year (reaching the semifinals before losing to Sharapova). "If she serves that well and is that aggressive, on this surface, she's definitely going to do well. I just have to give her all the credit today. She did many things a lot better than I did."
Earlier in the tournament, Lisicki lodged a complaint to the chair umpire about Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia, whom she felt was shrieking too loudly during their three-set match. Wisely, Lisicki avoided that issue on Monday; there was too much at stake to trigger an argument she couldn't win. Instead, she played the entire match in a joyful gallop, often smiling in the direction of friends or spectators after a point.
"I just enjoy the sport, I love being out there," said Lisicki, and on this day, it showed. For those who have grown weary of grim-faced competitors who tend to play exactly the same way, her performance brought welcome relief.