Sabine Lisicki outlasts Aga Radwanska, advances to Wimbledon finals
WIMBLEDON, England -- Germany's comeback queen has done it again. In the fourth round, No. 23 Sabine Lisicki came back from an 0-3 hole in the third set against Serena Williams to oust the top-seeded American. In the semifinals, she scored her second top five upset in the tournament by again climbing back from an 0-3 deficit in the deciding set to beat No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 2-6, 9-7, in a highly entertaining match full of shot-making and drama.
A Wimbledon finalist last year, Radwanska appeared to be running away with the match after breaking Lisicki in the second set and building a break-lead in the third set. However, Lisicki came storming back with her powerful brand of hitting to give herself the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third set. Radwanska broke her easily with a focused, crafty game, but she just couldn't find a way to break Lisicki's booming serve down the stretch. With a second chance to serve for the match, Lisicki made no mistakes. She fired a forehand winner on match point and collapsed to the ground in tears.
Lisicki will face Marion Bartoli, who defeated Kirsten Flipkens 6-1, 6-2 in the first semifinal.
Game-by-game analysis of Lisicki-Radwanska after the jump.
12:00 pm. ET | Sabine Lisicki defeats Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 2-6, 9-7 to advance to the Wimbledon final.
Lisicki leaves no doubt about it this time. She builds a 40-0 lead and she won't let go. With a forehand winner, Lisicki completes her comeback from 0-3 down in the third set to win. She collapses to the court in tears and gets a very cold handshake from Radwanska. Those two are not exactly besties.
Here's the final line on what was a thoroughly entertaining and dramatic match:
Lisicki: 9 aces, 7 double-faults, 60 winners, 46 unforced errors.
Radwanska: 1 ace, 0 double-faults, 21 winners, 10 unforced errors.
11:57 am. ET | Lisicki breaks, leads *8-7.
Lisicki earns a break point, and she has a forehand into the open court but she hits it long! Deuce.
Lisicki hitting better now, she's pounding her forehand inside out and earns another break point. This time she converts when Radwanska comes in and pushes a volley just long on the baseline.
For the second time in the match, Lisicki will serve for a spot in the final.
11:51 am. ET | Lisicki holds, tied 7-7.
Indeed. This has been a fantastic match. Great for women's tennis to put on a great show and remind the public that great matches don't always have involve the big stars.
Lisicki races to a 40-love lead and shows a little bit of a wobble with a double-fault to 40-30. But she holds when the net kicks Radwanska's backhand back on her side of the court.
11:46 am. ET | Radwanska holds, leads 7-6*.
Radwanska's two bad unforced errors off the forehand side gives Lisicki a look at 15-30, and she pounds a forehand return down the line to earn break points. Radwanska takes some pace off her serve but swings it wide and earns a return wide to save one. She saves the second when Lisicki nets a forehand. She's doing a good job of getting her shots deep on Lisicki, which obviously makes up for her lack of power. She finishes it with an ace.
Back to you, Sabine.
I'm going to be honest: I have no idea who's going to win this.
No argument here.
11:42 am. ET | Lisicki holds, ties 6-6.
Lisicki hits a huge serve down the tee to start the game, but Radwanska puts the return smack on the baseline. Two shots later, Lisicki's netted a backhand.
Another point full of angles ends with Radwanska standing on the courtside tarps, flinging her racket back towards the ball in jest after Lisicki chases down the ball for a winner. Crowd loving it.
At 30-30 Lisicki hits her biggest serve of the set, a 115 mph bullet down the tee. But she doesn't go for her first serve on the next point and Radwanska makes her pay. We're at deuce.
At deuce Lisicki gets down low to power through a backhand cross court and gets the error from Radwanska. She liked that one. Punctuated the point with double-armed fistpump. She holds, and we're going into extra innings.
11:37 am. ET | Radwanska holds, lead 6-5*.
In the biggest service game of her career, Sabine Lisicki starts it with an ace. But Radwanska shows her Top 5 class, as she wins a wonderful cat-and-mouse point to get to 15-all. She then plays the role of the aggressor to finish off a point at the net for 15-30. A flick lob earns her two break points. This is Aga Radwanska tennis.
Lisicki saves the first break point with a big backhand cross-court winner. And then she saves the second with a big service winner down the tee. Deuce.
A great return from Radwanska earns an error and she's got a third break point. SAVED with an chalk-kicking 110 mph ace on down the tee. Deuce No. 2.
Another great return from Radwanska earns yet another error from Lisicki and she's got a fourth break point. But a total brain cramp from Lisicki there. She pulls Radwanska into the net and the chunks a lob long. Radwanska breaks and we're back even at 5-5.
Radwanska has really stepped it up in this late stage. She's trying to be the aggressor and not betting on Lisicki missing. She's yanking the German around the court now and finishing points with a flourish. She earns game point with beautiful backhand slice drop and eventually holds at 30.
Lisicki will serve to stay in the set. No tiebreak here. They'll play this out.
11:27 am. ET | Lisicki breaks, leads *5-4.
Agnieszka Radwanska's legs would like to disagree.
A deuce on Lisicki's serve, the German pulls Radwanska to the net, and she pushes a forehand down the line. Lisicki responds with a flick cross court and it's just out of Radwanska's reach. If only she were an inch taller. Lisicki holds.
Danger for Radwanska. She hasn't hit many unforced errors today but her seventh one is costly, as she puts a regulation forehand into the middle of the net to give Lisicki a look at 15-30. She recovers with a great cross-court pass that Lisicki frames into the net for 30-30. But Lisicki earns a break point with some good attacking play. She gets a bit of luck as a mishit lands in, and Radwanska throws up a lob that lands wide.
Lisicki breaks and will serve for a spot in the final.
11:18 am. ET | Radwanska holds, leads 4-3*.
Lisicki's serving so much better now. Back-to-back 113 mph service winners and she holds easily at love. From 0-3 to 3-3 and Lisicki has now pulled all the momentum back on her side of the net.
Radwanska builds a 30-0 lead thanks to a beautiful backhand redirected down the line off a return that Lisicki pounded right at her feet. Still, two good plays from Lisicki in that game, feathering a perfect drop shot for a winner and rallying with Radwanska for 13 strokes before painting the baseline with a forehand winner.
11:08 am. ET | Liscki breaks, trails *2-3.
Good game from Lisicki, who goes to the net a few times to mitigate her poor form off the ground. Smart. She holds and shifts the pressure to hold to Radwanska.
Now her returns are going in. You really have no idea what's going to come off the German's racket right now. Lisicki earns two break points to get it back on serve, and then fires a forehand crosscourt winner that's reminiscent of the one Del Potro hit in his final set tiebreaker yesterday. She's right back in this.
11:06 am. ET | Radwanska breaks, leads 3-0*.
"I wonder what Serena Williams is thinking watching this," Simon Reed asks. "I don't think Serena's watching," Tracy Austin deadpans.
I literally laughed out loud, as did my press row. "It's too painful."
Sam Smith decides to keep it going. "You mean you can't see Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka lounging on couch together thinking 'Hey, let's turn on the women's semifinals!'" "I don't see that happening," Austin deadpans again. Pure comedy.
Here's the thing about Lisicki: She's Plan A or bust. She can't out-rally Radwanska unless she goes big on her forehand, but her forehand is in the security line at Heathrow right now getting ready to board a plane back to Germany. She gets broken and she's in trouble.
"She's trying to be Radwanska but she's not Radwanska," Simon Reed says. Indeed. Lisicki is completely lost out there and Radwanska is pouncing. Everything she tries to step in and hit sails out and when she tries to take some off and play with angles Radwanska's just playing her game of chess. You can't out-strategize Aga. You can out-hit her. But you can't out-think her. Radwanska holds and it's 3-0.
Gut-check time for the German. It's over if she doesn't hold here.
10:51 am. ET | Radwanska wins the second set 6-2.
"Another big miss and it's the Polish Miss who takes the second set," says Simon Reed. Good golly do they love their puns here. Lisicki continues to misfire and Radwanska takes the second set 6-2. Lisicki hit 15 winners to 17 unforced errors in that set compared to Radwanska's 6 winners to 3 unforced errors.
This isn't all about Lisicki going off the boil. Radwanska has stepped up her aggression and she's controlling from the baseline. I mean, Radwanska just broke Lisicki four straight times. Lisicki's confidence is waning, it's showing in her service games, and it'll be interesting to see how Lisicki comes out for the third set. She's taken a bathroom break to settle herself.
10:47 am. ET | Radwanska breaks, leads *5-2.
"It's The Coolness against The Passion," says Sam Smith. The Coolness is surging right now. Lisicki can't find the court and she's starting to yell at her box. I thought she was supposed to be the smiley one?
Radwanska breaks, and then holds easily as Lisicki's forehand is sailing everywhere but in. "The consistency is missing," Tracy Austin says, in a tone that makes clear she's shaking her head. Lisicki's father is motioning from the box for her to use more topspin. Hey! No coaching!
Seriously. Blondewanska is weird. But hey, they don't call it "Wimbleweird" for nothing....
10:40 am. ET | Lisicki breaks, trails *2-3.
That break of serve from Radwanska may have rattled Lisicki. Her service game is a long one and sees six deuces with Radwanska finally converting on her third break point to take her third straight game. Did Lisicki really think Radwanska was just going to give it to her after securing that early break? She's had game points in her last two service game and failed to convert, getting broken instead.
SHOT! Serving at 0-30, Radwanska is pulled into the net on her backhand side by a drop shot and she feathers it back with a sharp cross-court angle. I had to do a double-take to make sure that cleared the net. No idea how it did.
Lisicki breaks back behind some big hitting. When it doubt, close your eyes and hit. We're back on serve with Lisicki serving at 2-3.
10:26 am. ET | Radwanska holds, leads 2-1*.
Costly wobble from Radwanska. She gets broken at love to start the set and she's asked the trainer to make sure there are two ice bags ready for her on the changeover. "I was going to make a sexist comment but I'll keep it well buttoned up," says the male BBC commentator, Simon Reed. And that comment was necessary....how?
Radwanska gets two break points and she can't do anything with them. Lisicki fires down two aces and eventually earns game point but bricks a volley and lets out a shriek. Radwanska finally gets a good read on a wide serve and gets a good return back and eventually wins the point. On break point, Lisicki puts a 74 mph puffer into the middle of the box and Radwanska doesn't let her get away with it this time. She fires a backhand down the line and gets the break right back. I confess, I get a weird sense of glee when Radwanska breaks the big hitters like that. Gives hope to the rest of us.
Radwanska holds and we go into the first changeover on serve.
10:15 am. ET | Lisicki wins the first set 6-4.
Trying to serve out the set, Lisicki double-faults to fall into a 15-30 hole. Very tentative game from Lisicki here, who spins in a 68 mph second serve that Radwanska doesn't do enough with. At 30-30 Radwanska dictates a lengthy rally and finishes it with a forehand down the line winner. Lisicki just refused to pull the trigger there. But she steels herself and serves to save break point and finishes the game with a big wide serve that Radwanska returns wide.
First set to Lisicki. Very entertaining stuff but Lisicki's power is getting the better of Radwanska. Lisicki finished the set with 19 winners to 13 unforced, while Radwanska hit 4 winners to 2 unforced.
10:10 am. ET | Lisicki leads *5-4.
Sam Smith says the British tabloids have nicknamed Lisicki "Doris Becker". Um...no.
Another lucky netcord goes Lisicki's way and Radwanska can't believe it. Lisicki consolidates with a 119 mph ace out wide.
Radwanska of course gets her hold her own way. She responds to Lisicki's bomb of an ace with a 93 mph ace out wide. Her game is about placement, not power. She holds thanks to smart play at the net. She pulls Lisicki into the net with a drop shot and then, as Lisicki runs cross-court to cover the backhand angle, redirects the ball down the line behind her. So smart.
10:04 am. ET | Lisicki breaks, leads *4-3.
One of the big stories of this Wimbledon fortnight has been the success of the Polish players, with three making the quarterfinals and two, Radwanska and Janowicz, making the semifinals. As the BBC points out, that's going to give the LTA's critics some ammunition. A small nation with no tennis history, no federation, no academies, no system, produces two Wimbledon semifinalists. Meanwhile, the LTA's resources haven't borne much fruit other than Andy Murray and Laura Robson, both of whom weren't necessarily products of the LTA system.
Back to the match: Lisicki holds easily at 15 and her serve is starting to heat up. She's playing a tactically sound match, attacking the net quickly to prevent Radwanska from playing her brand of tennis-chess. Just like that she has three break points at 0-40 thanks to some heavy hitting and solid net-play.
"Her game sometimes is like a faulty box of fireworks," Smith observes as Lisicki rears back for an inside out forehand return and crushes outside the tramlines. Tracy Austin agrees. "Feast or famine." Radwanska saves all three break points to get back to deuce. Lisicki paints the baseline with a backhand and Radwanska mistimes the ball into the net. A fourth break point for Lisicki and she converts on a backhand pass that Radwanska has covered but it ticks the netcord and she can't get her strings on the ball.
9:55 am. ET | Radwanska leads 3-2*.
Already some great shot-making in this match. Radwanska gets Lisicki on the run and comes to the net but Lisicki counters with a perfect running backhand lob. Radwanska can only drop her head as it lands in behind her. Even she knew how good that was.
"She's absolutely forensic in her analysis of the match," says Sam Smith of Radwanska. She gets to 30-30 on Lisicki's serve thanks to some mishits off the German's racket but Lisicki holds with some line-painting. Still, that was a good game from Radwanska to at least show Lisicki that despite her big serving, Radwanska can get looks on her service games. To punctuate her point, Radwanska holds at love.
Obviously making a Wimbledon final is a big deal, but both these women will go into that match as the favorite against Bartoli. Radwanska has never lost to Bartoli in seven matches, while Lisicki leads that head-to-head 3-1. So there's a lot at stake here. It's hard not to think the Wimbledon champion will come out of this match.
9:48 am. ET | Radwanksa leads, 2-1*.
The two trade holds at 15 to start the match. Good to see a nice and settled start, something we didn't see in the first semifinal between Marion Bartoli and Kirsten Flipkens.
In the first two points of the third game we see both their respective games personified. Lisicki vaporizes a forehand return down the line that's past Radwanska before she can finish her service motion. On the next point, Radwanska has a tricky get at the net and actually has to reach across the plane of the net and hits a delicate backhand volley without pulling a Novak Djokovic and touching the net. See, Novak? It's not that hard.
Radwanska holds and we're on serve.
9:37 am. ET | Warm-up
The sun is shining and the players are out on court warming up. The first thing you notice is the amount of tape on Agnieszka Radwanska's mummified thighs. She hasn't not hidden the fact that her legs are exhausted after three straight three-set matches. She's spent almost three more hours on court than Lisicki, who is the oddsmakers' favorite for the title.
Power vs. Guile. If Radwanska can get her engine going this should be good. For a full preview of the match, click here.
Radwanska will serve first.
No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 23 Sabine Lisicki will meet in the semifinals of Wimbledon on Thursday. The match will follow the semifinal between Marion Bartoli and Kirsten Flipkens. The first semifinal is scheduled for 8 a.m. ET, and ESPN will televise both matches.
Radwanska is seeking a return trip to the final, where she lost to Serena Williams last year. The 24-year-old Pole has played three-setters in her last three matches, beating Madison Keys, Tsvetana Pironkova and 2011 French Open champion Li Na. Radwanska, known for her variety and ability to absorb the power of stronger players, is the highest seed remaining in a topsy-turvy tournament.
Lisicki, 23, has made the semifinals for the second time in three years after upsetting Williams in the fourth round and dispatching Kaia Kanepi in the quarterfinals. The big-serving German is 18-4 at Wimbledon and 16-15 in the other three majors combined.