Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli reach Wimbledon finals

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LONDON — Whether in a match, a set, a game – or even within a single point – Sabine Lisicki simply cannot be counted out.

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Sabine Lisicki was two points away from losing to Agnieszka Radwanska on two occasions, but won the semifinals match.  ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sabine Lisicki was two points away from losing to Agnieszka Radwanska on two occasions, but won the semifinals match.

Especially at Wimbledon, where the Ger­man is one victory from becoming a Grand Slam champion.

Fashioning the same sort of comeback she used to eliminate defending champion Serena Williams at the All England Club, the 23rd-seeded Lisicki reached her first major final by edging No. 4 Agnieska Radwanska 6-4, 2-6, 9-7 in a compelling, back-and-forth match Thursday.

“I just fought with all my heart,” said Lisicki, who twice was two points away from losing to 2012 runner-up Radwanska. “I believed that I could still win, no matter what the score was.”

On Saturday, Lisicki will face 15th-seeded Marion Bartoli, who took a nap on a locker-room couch before heading out to Centre Court and earning a berth in her second Wimbledon final with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over No. 20 Kirsten Flipkens.

It’s only the second time in the 45-year Open era that two women who have never won a Grand Slam trophy will play for the championship at the grass-court tournament.

Lisicki and Bartoli also form the second-lowest pair of seeded women to meet for the Wimbledon title. In 2007, Bartoli was No. 18 when she lost to No. 23 Venus Williams.

“In the beginning of the tournament, no one, I think, (expected) those names in the semis or in the finals,” Radwanska said.

In 11 of the past 13 years, one Williams sister or the other – and sometimes both – reached the final at the All England Club. This year, five-time champion Venus sat out because of a back injury, while five-time champion Serena’s 34-match winning streak ended with a loss to Lisicki on Monday.

Lisicki was motivated by a text message she said she received before Thursday’s match from the last German woman to play in a Grand Slam final, back in 1999, Steffi Graf.

“She told me to go for it,” Lisicki said.

Lisicki’s formula against Radwanska was the same one she employed while beating major champions Francesca Schiavone in the first round, Sam Stosur in the third and Williams: powerful serves, stinging returns and an uncanny ability to get to balls that seem out of reach.

On Thursday, Lisicki smacked serves at up to 122 mph, including nine aces, and hit eight return winners.

Her game clearly is built for grass. She is 19-4 at Wimbledon, 16-15 at the other three major tournaments. She’s 8-2 in three-setters at Wimbledon, 5-9 at the other Slams.

Bartoli also has been most successful at what many players consider tennis’ most prestigious site. Her career winning percentage at Wimbledon is .730; it’s .586 at the other Slams. She is 2-0 in Wimbledon semifinals, 0-1 elsewhere.

“I had to play, I don’t know, 500 percent, I think, to beat Marion today. She was just too good,” said Flipkens, who fell face-down in the grass in the sixth game, landing on her bandaged right knee, and later received treatment.

“I tried my slices. She didn’t have any problem with that. I tried the drop shot. She got it,” added Flipkens, who never had been past the fourth round at a major. “I tried a lob. I tried everything, actually.”

Hitting two-handed shots off both wings — like her idol, Monica Seles — Bartoli took the first three games of each set and never relented.

“Definitely,” said 2006 Wimbledon winner Amelie Mauresmo, the French Fed Cup captain serving as an adviser to Bartoli, “the best match of the tournament for her.”

As always, Bartoli took practice cuts between most points, pumped her fist after nearly every point she won, and sprinted to the sideline at changeovers.

“It’s not like I want to annoy my opponent,” Bartoli said. “It’s really me trying to be ready for the point that is coming.”

She figures she’s much better equipped to handle a Grand Slam final now than when she managed to win only five games in the loss to Venus Williams six years ago.

“I’m just doing everything better, honestly,” said Bartoli, who was only 22 when she made her major final debut.

Lisicki, 23, and Radwanska, 24, have known each other since they were junior players, and their styles could hardly be more different. All in all, Lisicki is far more aggressive than Radwanska, who relies on varying speeds and angles while mainly aiming to keep the ball in play. According to the official statistics, Lisicki finished with far more winners, 60-21, and far more unforced errors, 46-10.

Lisicki won her first five service games and was up a break in the second set when everything changed. Radwanska broke five times in a row, until Lisicki finally held again to get within 3-1 in the third. Lisicki ran off five out of six games, ignoring the distraction of a courtside scoreboard that began flickering, then was shut off. At 5-4 in the third, Lisicki served for the match, twice getting within two points of victory, but Radwanska broke again.

At 6-5, 30-all, and again at deuce, Radwanska needed two points to win. She couldn’t do it.

“I had a lot of chances. Couple of easy mistakes,” Radwanska said. “It cost me.”

At 7-all, Lisicki broke by nearly sitting on the grass for a backhand that forced Radwanska to miss a volley. Given another chance to serve it out, Lisicki capped the most meaningful victory of her career with a forehand winner.

“It’s unbelievable the way she came back again in the third set,” said Lisicki’s coach, Wim Fissette, who used to work with four-time major champion Kim Clijsters.

Radwanska, who spent nearly three total hours more on court than Lisicki in previous rounds, played with both thighs heavily taped.

“If we play in two days from now,” she said, “I think it would be definitely different.”

Asked why she offered Lisicki only a cursory, no-look handshake, then quickly left the court, Radwanska answered: “Should I just be there and dance?”

Understandably, Lisicki’s mood at her news conference was cheerier. She couldn’t stop smiling or chuckling.

“When I arrived here at the tournament, I just said that anything’s possible. That’s what I believed. I still do,” Lisicki said. “I came to win every match that I walk on the court (for), and that’s what I’ve done so far.”

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

WHO: No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro; No. 2 Andy Murray vs. No. 24 Jerry Janowicz

WHAT: Wimbledon semifinals

TELEVISION: Coverage begins at 8 a.m. on ESPN

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Djokovic leads the overall series with del Potro 8-3 but is 1-1 against him this year. Murray and Janowicz have split their two matches.

➤ Brothers have eye on ‘Bryan Slam’/6C

WIMBLEDON COMPARISON

Sabine Lisicki is 3-1 against Marion Bartoli in her career. A look at how the women have fared at the All England Club.

BARTOLI LISICKI

6 Matches 6

64.3 Opponents Avg. Rank 21.8

12-0 Sets 12-3

76-43 Games 82-51

419-316 Points 495-416

8:45 Time on Court 9:12

1:28 Avg. Time on Court 1:32

0 Three-Set Matches 3


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