Posts Tagged ‘Sabine Lisicki’

PostHeaderIcon Genie & Sabine, Roger & Milos: My Wimbledon Quarterfinal Previews, Part 2

Genie Bouchard (Jon Buckle/AELTC)

Genie Bouchard (Jon Buckle/AELTC)

LADIES

Genie Bouchard (CAN) [13] v Angelique Kerber (GER) [9]

Original Picks: Williams, Sharapova

H2H: Series is tied at 1-1

Far from disappointed at my failure to correctly pick this section’s quarterfinalists, it’s fantastic to see young Canadian Genie Bouchard set to battle against the crafty lefty, Angelique Kerber.

Genie is looking to make her third Slam semifinal of the season after strong showings in both Melbourne and Paris. (Compare that to Sloane Stephens who made the semifinals in Melbourne and pretty much hasn’t been heard from since.) She’s aggressive in her play, a gritty competitor, and wants to be at the top of the game.

I know I’ve said this before, but not many up-and-comers are truly “the real deal”. Genie is, indeed, the real deal! Even if Serena hadn’t lost to Cornet, I’m certain that Genie would have taken her out. Serena is the face of a veteran champion. Genie is the fresh face of the new guard that has little deference for the past.

She’ll need all of that moxie to get by Angelique, a solid player who seems to have found a new life this year on grass. At her best, Angie has tremendous defense, and a down-the-line backhand that she can hit from the most improbable of positions. Just ask Maria Sharapova.

Both Genie and Angie come into Wimbledon with winning momentum. Genie has the confidence from a semifinal run at the French, and Angie a finalist showing in Eastbourne. This could go either way on paper. Once again, however, my gut tells me to go with the plucky, opportunistic Canadian gal who’s starring in her own WTA version of ‘All About Eve’.

Genie Bouchard in three sets

Simona Halep (ROU) [3] v Sabine Lisicki (GER) [19]

Original Picks: Halep, Keys

H2H: Simona Halep leads 2-1

Simona leads the H2H, but Sabine’s history of winning Wimbledon results can’t be denied!

No matter how lackluster the rest of her season has been or will be, she hits the Wimbledon grass and becomes a different player, a much happier and more confident player.

Her forehand, always a potential weapon, is more lethal and penetrating. And her serve, another big weapon, can cause damage in much the same way as Serena’s. Add confidence to those two weapons, and you have a legitimate threat to go deep on the lawns.

This will be a big test for Simona, who hasn’t faced a heavy hitter like Sabine in her previous matches. Her all-court game and solid defense are generally good enough to help her on most court surfaces. Grass is different. The quick(er) courts/low bounces favor someone with weapons like Sabine. Simona, who lacks similar weaponry, will be at a distinct disadvantage.

More importantly, how can anyone go against Sabine and her history of improbable runs? Not me. Simona will fight hard but I’m looking at Sabine to take this one for a spot against Genie in the semifinals.

Sabine Lisicki in three sets

Roger Federer (Tom Lovelock/AELTC)

Roger Federer (Tom Lovelock/AELTC)

GENTLEMEN

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [5] v Roger Federer (SUI) [4]

Original Picks: Wawrinka, Federer

H2H: Roger Federer leads 13-2

In spite of their lopsided match history, Stan did get the better of Roger earlier this year in Monte Carlo. However, that match was on clay. This match will be played on grass, a surface they’ve never contested, at a venue where Roger has had his most prolific Slam success. Just that fact alone leads me to favor Roger in this match, but that’s not the only indicator.

Roger is serving very well this fortnight. While he may not be the tournament aces leader, he also hasn’t been broken, and hasn’t dropped a set. Stan’s serving well too, but has faced more break points overall, and was broken 4 times in his 4-set match against Yen-Hsun Lu.

Familiarity might also play a huge part in this match. Stan’s familiarity with Roger’s game might help win a set, but not more than Roger’s familiarity with Stan’s game, and especially on this familiar court.

Wimbledon history also comes into play when you look at each player’s history at the Championships. Stan has never progressed past the fourth round. And aside from the occasional upset, Roger has won this title 7 times, been the finalist on one occasion, and a quarterfinalist on 3 other occasions.

It’d be foolhardy to ignore the cumulative effect of their lopsided match history, their current level of play, and Roger’s overwhelmingly winning record at SW19. Sorry Stan.

Roger Federer in four sets

Milos Raonic (CAN) [8] v Nick Kyrgios (AUS)

Original Picks: Nishikori, Nadal

H2H: Milos Raonic leads 1-0

I love it when a player proves me wrong, and such is the case with Milos Raonic in his first appearance in a Wimbledon quarterfinal.  For too many years we suffered the hype of this “young gun” only to see him exit early. But with the help of his coaching team and a ton of hard work, Milos has considerably improved his movement; which was his Achilles heel on grass (and clay). With better movement and improved shot selection, he’s been able to make inroads that once seemed improbable.

The best part of all is that the improvement in his overall level of performance has allowed him to relax and focus on what he does best: serve opponents off the court. Finally, he’s become the threat everyone thought he could be on this surface.

He’ll be facing Nick Kyrgios, an even younger gun who played the match of his fledgling career in taking out World No. 1, Rafa Nadal. However, Nick’s win was no fluke. He came out with confidence, served well, and smacked backhand winners at will.

More impressively, he played a tactically brilliant match by making Rafa play at his quicker pace. It takes a special kind of young player to have that kind of higher level tennis wherewithal, and Nick’s got it.

Experience counts for something though, and Milos has the greater experience at this level. This might be his first Wimbledon quarter, but he’s about as prepared to step into the limelight as I’ve ever seen. He knows exactly what his tools are, and how to use them when the stakes are high.

Nick will have to regroup after a big win, and come out playing perhaps a better match than he did against Rafa because of Milos’ serve. Playing Milos will be tough enough without the emotional letdown that happens after a big win. And though Nick is an impressive talent, I don’t think it’s gonna happen.

Look for Milos to face off against Roger in the semifinals.

Milos Raonic in four sets

PostHeaderIcon Serena Williams’ Centre Court Snub: A Pre-Wimbledon Shock or Not

wimbledon-serenawilliams-snubshock

Serena Williams (Thomas Lovelock/AELTA)

Why wait for the first upsets of the tournament when the All England Lawn and Tennis Club (AELTC) has already given me more than enough material for my first Wimbledon “Shock or Not”.

Serena Williams was passed over to open Ladies play on Centre Court: Shock or Not? Huge Shock, Huge Message to SW!

This is what Jon Wertheim, wrote about the selection criteria for that first Centre Court match honor:

“The good folks at the All England Club explained to us that they have a few choices: the slot can go to the champion two years ago, the current top seed or most recent finalist. Given that Serena Williams meets two of those three criteria, the guess is that she gets the call.”

That guess was wrong. The good folks at the AELTC saw fit to tap Sabine Lisicki, the 2013 finalist, for that honor. The social media reaction was swift, yet familiar in its’ polarization between those who felt Serena was snubbed and those who felt the 5-time champion wasn’t entitled to any Centre Court privileges.

To all of the Serena Haters, let’s be clear that this was a ‘monumental’ snub. Lisicki is a fine player, but doesn’t have anywhere near the same level of credibility as Serena, be it at Wimbledon or anywhere else. Sabine’s won 3 singles titles (clay, grass, and hard court), the last coming in 2012. She’s had a solid, if injury-filled, WTA career; but nothing apart from her finalist status to warrant this honor.

Conversely, Serena’s won 60 titles. Included in this massive haul are 17 Slam singles titles, 5 of which came from the grass at Wimbledon. Her last title at Wimbledon came in 2012, the year she also won an Olympic gold medal at – you guessed it – Wimbledon. There is absolutely no denying the fact that she, along with her sister Venus, has owned Centre Court for well over a decade: and that she’s more than deserving of the selection.

Then again, Serena hasn’t been the best representative of AELTC membership. Her temperamental outbursts are infamous, and also embarrassing to the WTA brass that so desperately needs her as the face of the tour. So while it’s true that she’s a deserving Wimbledon champion, that’s more a function of her dominance on the grass rather than her comportment off of it. And I’m certain that the AELTC is much more concerned with the latter.

If this selection involved Venus Williams, for example, instead of Serena, I doubt there would’ve been any consideration of another choice. Venus has proven her worth at Wimbledon while also setting an excellent standard as an off-court leader. Her stand for equal pay at Wimbledon is just one of the many ways that Venus has used her platform as a champion to try and make a difference.

I’m not suggesting that Serena should be more like Venus, because that’s never going to happen. But I do believe that if she had less infamy in her career and more standards of off-court excellence, Lisicki would have been relegated to Court 1 or Court 2: as Serena has been at various points the past few years as part of the subtle messaging from the AELTC that she’s a tolerated, but not a preferred, champion.

Most likely, this mini-controversy will lead to title number 6 for Serena. Few women thrive as spectacularly as Serena when they feel the world is against them. It’s when she’s most dangerous, and most likely to crush her opposition. It’s just a shame that, for all of her good achievements, she’s more often than not judged by the bad.

PostHeaderIcon The 2014 AO Women’s Draw, or Can Serena Stop Vika’s AO Hat Trick?

Serena Williams (Darrian Traynor)

Serena Williams (Darrian Traynor)

That may sound like an odd question to ask about the greatest player of her generation. But such is the case with respect to Serena Williams and her primary rival, Victoria Azarenka. Serena, the World #1, has won five Australian Open titles; but none since 2010. Vika, on the other hand, has lifted the Aussie Open trophy the past two years; in spite of a perpetual runner-up status to Serena in the Slams. Go figure!

If Serena can make it through without injury, the stage looks set for her to win a sixth Aussie title after a dominating run in Brisbane. The draw looks favorable for Serena. Then again, it also looks favorable for Vika. Let’s take a deeper look and see if there’s anyone who can stop the Serena-Vika juggernaut.

ao14-vika

Victoria Azarenka (Ben Solomon)

Top Half – Top Quarter

Serena Williams – Ana Ivanovic R16

Roberta Vinci/Madison Keys/Kirsten Flipkens – Eugenie Bouchard R16

I was listening to some commentators on the Tennis Channel as they discussed Serena’s draw and heard them say that it actually looks harder than it may seem. I couldn’t disagree more! The only person who should have a shot at derailing Serena, Sam Stosur, has sadly been MIA for some time.

Tsvetana Pironkova did well to win Sydney, but there’s a huge difference between beating Angelique Kerber and “surviving Serena”! Ana Ivanovic? Not enough belief or firepower. And the level of opposition isn’t any better on the other side of the quarter though it would be great to see a “Young Guns” R16 match between Madison Keys and Eugenie Bouchard.

Throwing down the gauntlet, I’ll be shocked if Serena even drops a set on her way to the semifinals.

Top Half – Bottom Quarter

Li Na – Sabine Lisicki R16

Angelique Kerber – Petra Kvitova R16

Though it’s sometimes hard to know what to expect from Li Na on a match-by-match basis, the odds look good for her to make it to the quarterfinals. Coincidentally, the same can be said about Petra Kvitova, the other likely quarterfinalist in this section of the draw. Both women are Grand Slam champions with huge ground games that they can impose on their opponents. Both are also prone to prolonged patches of equally head-scratching tennis.

Luckily for them, their likely challengers in the R16 are Sabine Lisicki and Angelique Kerber; so I expect both to make it through. Venus Williams is in the section of the quarter with Li Na, but I don’t expect her to make an impact… Still, it’s great to see her healthy enough to compete.

In a choice between Li and Kvitova, I’ll give Li Na the nod.

ao14-maria

Maria Sharapova (Fiona Hamilton)

Bottom Half – Top Quarter

Jelena Jankovic – Simona Halep R16

Carla Suarez Navarro/Dominika Cibulkova – Alize Cornet/Maria Sharapova R16

In terms of potential for interesting matches/outcomes, this quarter takes my top honors. Most would expect to see a Jelena Jankovic-Maria Sharapova quarterfinal, but I see at least 3 other players who could do some damage in this quarter.

Jankovic could face some real trouble with Simona Halep, the “Tier 2” Serena of 2013. Sharapova could also have her hands full: first with surprise Hopman Cup champion Alize Cornet, then with either Carla Suarez Navarro or Dominika Cibulkova. Cornet didn’t fare well in Sydney, but an upset is always possible.

All things being equal, I’ll go with Jelena over Simona (1-2 H2H but won only meeting on hard court), and Maria over Carla before besting Jelena to make the semifinals.

Bottom Half – Bottom Quarter

Aga Radwanska – Caroline Wozniacki R16

Sloane Stephens/Yaroslava Shvedova/Svetlana Kuznetsova – Victoria Azarenka R16

As interesting as the “Maria” quarter is for potential match-ups, this quarter doesn’t seem to possess the same level of intrigue. At least on paper, Radwanska’s likely R16 looks to be Caroline Wozniacki. But Wozniacki, the future Mrs. McIlroy, could flame out in her opening match, or just as easily live up to her seeding. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for the latter, but no more than that.

Azarenka’s path to the quarterfinals will need to go through some pretty big hitters in Stephens, Shvedova, Kuznetsova, and Jamie Hampton (3rd round). But none of them have made an impact so far in the 2014 season. In fact, there has been talk that Stephens, last year’s surprise semifinalist, was injured coming into Melbourne and was iffy for her AO start. Odds are it’s Vika through to a quarterfinal meeting against Aga. And we know how that is likely to end. (Hint: Vika)

(UPDATE: Jamie Hampton has withdrawn from the Australian Open due to a hip injury.)

Notable First Round Matches

Casey Dellacqua v Vera Zvonareva (welcome back Vera!)

Ekaterina Makarova v Venus Williams

Bethanie Mattek-Sands v Maria Sharapova

Sloane Stephens v Yaroslava Shvedova

Tournament Picks

As always, take with several grains of salt…

Quarterfinals

Serena Williams v Eugenie Bouchard

Li Na v Petra Kvitova

Jelena Jankovic v Maria Sharapova

Aga Radwanska v Victoria Azarenka

Semifinals

Serena Williams v Li Na

Maria Sharapova v Victoria Azarenka

Final

Serena Williams v Victoria Azarenka

Champion: Serena Williams

PostHeaderIcon Sabine Over Marion In An Unlikely Women’s Final

Matthias Hangst/AELTC

Matthias Hangst/AELTC

It’s Sabine Lisicki versus Marion Bartoli for the Ladies Wimbledon title after one of the nuttiest, most upset-ridden tournament in years.

Two weeks ago, the landscape looked very different. Serena was on a roll, Maria was a solid second bet behind Serena, Vika looked ready to make a Slam move, and Aga continued to look for an opening.

Alas, they’re all gone. Sabine knocked out Serena and Aga in the quarterfinals and semifinals, a screaming Larcher de Brito knocked out the equally-screaming (and sliding) Maria, and the grass courts took out Vika with a TKO.

That’s a ton of lost star power. And to be honest, there are many who might forego watching Championship Saturday without the presence of either Serena or Maria. But as underwhelmed as many might be for this match, these two ladies won the matches they needed to win, and more than deserve to be in the final.

That said, who’s going to hold aloft the Venus Rosewater dish tomorrow morning? My gut tells me Sabine. She’s playing like a woman on a mission as though this is her destiny. Others have pointed to Marion’s resurgence, and this golden opportunity for a “do-over” final to win the title that was denied by Venus Williams.

Let’s take a look at their previous match history along with their paths to the final for some clues.

Marion Bartoli (FRA) [15] v Sabine Lisicki (GER) [23]

H2H: Sabine leads 3-1

Marion won their first encounter on grass (first round Wimbledon 2008). Since then it’s been one-way traffic for Sabine in their next three matches: two on clay in Charleston (’09 and ’11), and their last on grass in the 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Both have struggled for consistent results since. In 2012, Sabine did no better than the quarterfinals of any tournament she played. Her struggles coincided with Angelique Kerber’s rise to the top 10. In fact, she even lost to Angelique at Wimbledon in the quarters after her semifinal showing the year before. 2013 has been significantly better for Sabine, with finals in Pattaya and Memphis mixed in with other lesser results. Not quite her best level, but a definite step up.

Marion has had her struggles as well, notably with her consistency, fitness and her coaching situation. After a strong start to her 2012 season, she suffered several first/second round losses. There were injuries, illnesses, and the much-publicized struggles of having her father as her coach. This Wimbledon final is the standout moment of a tough 2013 season without her coach/father by her side.

So in terms of relative trajectory based on the year, Sabine has the clear edge. But I think the stronger indicator of how this match will play out can be gleaned from their respective paths through the draw.

Marion’s draw was, as one friend put it, “fluff”. Sloane Stephens (17) and Kirsten Flipkens (20) were the highest ranked opponents she faced, and she obliterated Flipkens in the semifinals 6-1 6-2. Yes, Marion had to earn her victories, but the cost was fairly minimal.

By contrast, Sabine faced (and conquered) newly-crowned Eastbourne champ Elena Vesnina, Samantha Stosur (14), Agnieszka Radwanska (4), and world No. 1 Serena Williams. She had to come back from a 0-3 third-set deficit not once, but twice against both Serena and Aga. To say that Sabine’s been tested (and passed with flying colors) would be an understatement.

Sabine is about as ready for this final as a player could be. She’s gotten the better of Marion in their past matches, and she’s beaten the best in the world on the court where she plays her best tennis. She’s had a few too many unforced errors for my liking, but is fit, happy, and overall playing great tennis.

I expect Marion will fight hard, because she’s a great fighter, though it won’t be enough to overcome Sabine. In the end, having her toughest test of the fortnight come in the finals will be too much to overcome: especially against a player with Sabine’s momentum. She might take a set from Sabine, but there will be no Wimbledon title.

Sabine in three sets for the Wimbledon title

PostHeaderIcon Wimbledon Women’s Semifinal Picks: No Clear Favorites

Matthias Hangst/AELTC

Matthias Hangst/AELTC

Apart from Aga Radwanska, no one could ever have envisioned this particular final foursome at the start of the Wimbledon fortnight. But on semifinal eve of one of the craziest Wimbledons in memory, this is what we got!

Sabine has worked her way through the draw as if it’s her destiny to win the title. Aga’s fight and defense have come to life in a way that was missing during the clay season. Kirsten has knocked out a former champion. And Marion has played well to put herself in a position to win the title that wasn’t meant to be in 2007.

All of them are deserving semifinalists, but there’s no one clear favorite for the title. First things first though… who’s moving on to the finals? Let’s take a look at the semifinal match-ups to find out.

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4] v Sabine Lisicki (GER) [23] (Match of the day!)

H2H: Tied at 1-all

Honestly, there isn’t much in their head-to-head that can predict the outcome of this match. Both matches were played on hard courts, and the last was played in early 2012. They are both different players now, and very different players on grass.  Sabine beat Aga at the Bank of the West in ’11 in three tough error-filled sets. Aga beat Sabine in two easy sets in Dubai in ’12. I think the BOTW encounter will be more likely.

Look for Sabine to be the aggressor.  She’ll make a ton of mistakes, but will also end up being rewarded for her aggression. Aga has upped her aggression level, and showed it to good effect against Li Na in the quarterfinals. But I believe that Sabine, playing like a woman possessed, is seemingly destined to make it to the finals. Also, Aga has played some long matches and her legs are beginning to show the fatigue. If she can’t surprise Sabine with a win in straight sets, she’s not going to win in three.

Sabine in three.

Marion Bartoli (FRA) [15] v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) [20]

H2H: No record

These two haven’t played one another, so there’s not a lot to go on for predicting how this match might play out. The one differentiator I see is the fact that Marion has been “there” before, which should count for something. She knows what to expect from this big moment on the big stage, and should be able to better focus on her tennis than a player who’s never previously made it past the fourth round of a Slam.

Marion in two.

Wimbledon Final: Sabine Lisicki v Marion Bartoli

PostHeaderIcon Wimbledon Quarterfinal Picks Now That Serena Is OUT

Steve Wake/AELTC

Steve Wake/AELTC

I don’t know about anyone else, but I still haven’t recovered from Serena’s shocking loss to Sabine Lisicki in Monday’s fourth round action. The presumptive favorite (the stencil for the wall of champions was probably already prepared) has joined Sharapova and Azarenka on the sidelines.

But with only a day break between the fourth round and the quarters, I must now move on to evaluate the women that are left in the draw; all of whom have a great chance of winning a first (or second) Wimbledon title. Here are my picks for the quarters.

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4] v Na Li (CHN) [6]

H2H: Na leads 6-4

This quarterfinal features two players who could each go on to win the title. They’ve played 3 times on grass, and Aga has won 2 of those.  Na won their last meeting, but that was back in 2010. So it’s relevance to this quarterfinal is pretty suspect.

In a battle of smarts, guile, and variety versus power and shot-making, this match hinges on Li Na’s ability to execute her shots cleanly with few errors. If she does, this could be pretty one-sided. If Li Na hits short and has too many unforced errors, Aga will be able to frustrate her by working the ball around the court and diffusing her power game.

Unfortunately, Aga has struggled in her last two matches while Li Na has played better with each round. That’s why I’m going with Li Na over last year’s finalist, Aga.

(Note – I’m feeling like this could be Li Na’s year to win the whole thing. We’ll find out soon enough if I’m correct.)

Petra Kvitova (CZE) [8] v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) [20]

H2H: Kirsten leads 2-1

Surprisingly, Kirsten leads their head-to-head and won their last match in Miami by a score of 6-0, 4-6, 6-1. But this is Wimbledon, and Petra – however inconsistent she may be – is a former champion. And when she makes clean contact with the ball, she’s untouchable. Added to that the fact that Kirsten hasn’t played any seeded players so far, and I like Petra’s chances to come through. But in a tournament filled with upsets, nothing is certain for any higher-ranked player.

Sabine Lisicki (GER) [23] v Kaia Kanepi (EST)

H2H: No record

Sabine the Giant Killer is on a roll this Wimbledon, and her stunning win over Serena  Williams will lead the highlight reel. She’s playing well, playing bravely, loves the grass, and loves the atmosphere. Kaia has played some pretty nervy tennis in this tournament, and came close to finding herself in a third set against Laura Robson today. I like Kaia a lot, but brave is not how I’d describe her play; and that’s what’s going to win these later round. So look for Sabine to continue on to the semifinals.

Sloane Stephens (USA) [17] v Marion Bartoli (FRA) [15]

H2H: Marion leads 1-0

This is gonna be a funky match. Marion’s played well to get to this stage in the tournament, but could always fall victim to the inconsistency that plagues her game. On the other side, Sloane has gotten through her matches but it’s been pretty patchy. I never once felt certain that she would win either of her last two matches until she won match point. In the end, a win is a win. And each of those wins might help her against the more experienced Marion.

In her post-match press conference, Serena picked Sloane to go all the way. Whether she was serious or not, we’ll never know. But I’m picking Marion for the win because of her experience at Wimbledon.  Still, I hope that Sloane can make things interesting with another three-setter.

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