German wild card entrant Sabine Lisicki continued her amazing Wimbledon run by beating France’s Marion Bartoli to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time.
The 21-year-old defeated the 2007 finalist, who had halted Serena Williams in the previous round, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1 and will now go on to face Russia’s Maria Sharapova who annihilated Dominika Cibulkova in their quarterfinal.
It is a dream run for Lisicki who dropped as low as No.218 in the world as she battled severe injuries to both ankles. It will also be a relief to her that she came through after squandering match points in the second set. In a similar situation at this year’s French Open she lost to Vera Zvonereva in round two after failing to take match points and had to be stretchered off the court in tears.
Her form looked to have improved with her AEGON Classic final win over Daniela Hantuchova and she now adds Bartoli’s name to that of French Open Champion Li Na on her list of victims at the All England Club.
Both players showed early nerves, swapping breaks at the start of the first set. They had endured a 15-minute delay while the roof was closed on Center Court and Lisicki in particular seemed jumpy as the thunderstorm roaring on outside made hearing the calls of the linesman and umpire difficult.
But when Lisicki broke again in game three something inside her clicked and she looked dominant throughout the first set, which she clinched in just 43 minutes.
In to the second and she seemed to grow in confidence. Her serve looked much safer than Bartoli’s and Lisicki seemed to be able to find winners from impossible angles that left the notoriously sluggish Gaul often rooted to the spot.
But then serving for the set at 5-4 in the second her nerve seemed to desert her, akin to that Zvonereva encounter at Roland Garros.
Three match points went begging as her serve brutally deserted her and after some mesmerising rallies, one including a sumptuous backhand lob from the German that had Bartoli scrambling, the Frenchwoman levelled, before comfortably forcing a deciding set in the tiebreaker.
Yet the tiredness shown throughout due to 26-year-old Bartoli’s draining win over Williams junior in the previous round began to show, and despite getting more first serves in than her opponent her points won on serve ratio of 55% was well below the 71% posted by her opponent, and this is where her game truly unravelled in set three.
Lisicki raced in to a 3-0 lead and Bartoli’s head dropped, allowing her to become the first German woman in to a Grand Slam semi since the dominant Steffi Graf in 1999.
Her run continues the rebirth of women’s tennis in Germany that has seen Lisicki, as well as Julia Georges and Andrea Petkovic, upsetting the game’s big names regularly this year.
Sharapova awaits next after thrashing Cibulkova 6-1, 6-1 to cement herself as the firm favourite to lift the SW19 crown.
She remains the only Grand Slam winner left in the draw and was many people’s favourite to take the title from the off. She will also take comfort from her equally merciless 6-2, 6-0 thumping of Lisicki back in Miami this year.
The 2004 winner displayed immense power and accuracy from the off and it was hard to see how Cibulkova had overcome world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki in the previous round.
Cibulkova won the first game, but Sharapova went on a devastating run of eight-straight games to leave her opponent shell-shocked.
Yet the 22-year-old Slovakian had lost the first set to Wozniacki 1-6 before coming back to shock the Dane. She broke back to 1-2 in the second and murmurs began to run around the enclosed arena that another such reversal could be on the cards.
But it wasn’t to be. Sharapova’s 23 winners and thunderous ground strokes, coupled with Cibulkova’s poor taking of 40% of points on her serve meant that Sharapova was left to romp home to victory with very little exertion.