June 28, 2011 -- What could be better than Marion Bartoli's spirit on Centre Court? The idiosyncratic French woman stunned millions when she defeated the defending champion Serena Williams yesterday.
And what about Sabine Lisicki? Her story tugs at our hearts. She had to re-learn how to walk last year. To secure her wildcard entry to the main draw, she wrote a personal letter to The All England Club (AEC). No wonder it was granted. The normal route is through a player's management firm.
Either Sabine Lisicki or Marion Bartoli had to be eliminated today in their quarterfinal match. That's how the game goes. From the first ball struck the inevitable loomed. One would win; the other would not.
For Bartoli fans, the day was a disappointment. For Lisicki fans, her smile and joy filled hearts once again.
"It's so wonderful standing on Centre Court at Wimbledon," Lisicki told the BBC immediately after her victory. "I feft like I was the better player today."
Lisicki's first trip to Wimbledon was in 2008 where she lost ironically to Marion Bartoli in the first round. Lisicki barreled through to the quarterfinals in 2009, though. Commentators remarked how big her serve was and what a strong ground game she had for an eighteen year old. The tennis world had a new star on the horizon.
However later that year she tumbled on the hard courts of the U. S. Open and was carted away in a wheelchair. If that's not dramatic enough, her fall came on match point against Australian Anastasia Rodionova. After recovering from that injury to her left ankle, she damaged her right ankle at Indian Wells the following year. But she continued to play until she was forced to leave the tour in Miami. She didn't return for the next five months.
Apparently the injury was initially misdiagnosed in California, according to reports on Tennis.com. She later flew home to Germany and saw her doctors. It was a fracture, not a sprain. "After a normal ankle sprain it usually takes six weeks," Sabine said. "So I was out for five months."
Her ranking fell out of the top 200 from a career high of 25. The inaccurate diagnosis extended her recovery time. "I know that for the future I'll be going on the first plane back to Germany," Lisicki said, as reported by Tennis.com. "It was tough, but it happened. Nothing I can change."
She worked her way back slowly. She re-learned how to walk then hit balls. Lisicki is grateful for her comeback. She was euphoric after her 64 67(4) 61 victory over Bartoli.
"I did a very good job getting here," she told the BBC. "I have nothing to lose [going forward]."
Lisicki's performance at Wimbledon makes her the second woman, since Zheng Jie in 2008, to make the semifinals as a wildcard. Lisicki is the first German woman to reach the semis, too, since Steffi Graf in 1999. Lisicki also became the seventh player ranked outside the top 50 to reach the Wimbledon semifinals. Two other familiar names on that list are Tsvetana Pironkova and Petra Kvitova.
As the luck of the draw would have it, Kvitova defeated Pironkova 63 67(5) 62 today in another quarterfinal. She will meet Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals. She defeated surprise quarterfinalist Tamira Paszek late this evening on Centre Court 64 62. This will be Azarenka's first semifinal at a major.
So what happened to the spirited Bartoli? Her mind remained active and alert, but her body gave out. Bartoli was lucky to push today's encounter to three sets. Lisicki had three match points in the second set, but nerves rattled her concentration and Bartoli won in a tiebreak.
At the beginning of the third, Bartoli knew she was in trouble.
"As the match went on I was able to return more and more serves," Bartoli said in her press conference. "When I started the third set, I was fine. Then all of a sudden I couldn't move anymore."
Bartoli stopped her pre-point rituals completely. She gasped for air. Like many tennis stars she blamed herself for the loss, which in the long run is the bottom line truth. No one else swings the racquet.
"I blame myself," she said. "I tried my hardest. My mind was there, but my body was indifferent. My leg started to cramp."
Marion Bartoli made lots of fans this fortnight at Wimbledon. Some came over to her side because of her victory over Serena Williams. More, though, took a second look at the Frenchwoman because of her tireless concentration and determination.
For Lisicki the road gets much tougher. She plays Maria Sharapova in the semifinals. "I have absolutely nothing to lose," Lisicki said. "I'm so thankful to be out there again."
Sharapova needed fifty-nine minutes to defeat Dominika Cibulkova today, 61 61. The 2004 Wimbledon champion smashed winners to every conceivable spot on the green grass. There was little Cibulkova could do in retaliation. Time just ran out for the diminutive Slovakian.
"I was playing someone I lost to a little over a month ago on clay in two sets, so I knew she was capable of playing some really good tennis," Sharapova to the press. "A few years ago I also lost to her at the French Open, at the same stage. I thought I played really solid and did the right things to win this time."