With her stunning upset of Serena Williams on Monday and her dominating performance against Kaia Kanepi on Tuesday to reach the semifinals, Sabine Lisicki has become the face of the women’s competition at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships.
But it’s her opponent who has the higher seed and the stronger resume coming into their semifinal battle on Thursday.
Fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska outlasted Li Na in a terrific three-set battle Tuesday to become the next roadblock in Lisicki’s stunning run toward her first-ever Wimbledon title.
The matchup pits the hard-hitting, power-serving Lisicki against the athletic and consistent Radwanska in what is the marquee semifinal of a completely bizarre Wimbledon fortnight in the women’s draw.
For Radwanska, it’s a second straight trip to the Wimbledon semifinals, and a win Thursday over her German opponent would send her to a second consecutive Wimbledon final. The Polish star fell to Serena in last year's final.
For Lisicki, her second semifinal appearance at the All England Club in the past three years justifies her amazing three-set win over Williams and gives her a second shot at the finals. The 23-year-old lost to Maria Sharapova in the 2011 semifinals.
For one player, the semifinal battle will bring an opportunity for a first Grand Slam crown. For the other, it will prove a bitter end to a strong but expected run.
It’s not a semifinal anyone expected, but it will likely be an enjoyable one all the same.
Lisicki and Radwanska have only met twice, and each has earned a victory in those two meetings.
The most recent contest between the two came in 2012 at Dubai, where Radwanska toppled her German opponent easily in straight sets 6-2, 6-1.
That win avenged a three-set loss to Lisicki a year earlier at the 2011 WTA Bank of West Classic, which Sabine took 6-2 in the third.
That limited head-to-head history between the two surprise semifinalists adds even more flavor to Thursday’s match.
Both players are terrific on the grass surfaces and are accomplished at the All England Club.
Radwanska’s trip to last year’s Wimbledon final was the first of her career. While Lisicki still looks for a first finals appearance in any slam, she has been to a previous Wimbledon semifinal and owns upsets of Serena and Sharapova on her All England Club resume.
Based on her performance during this fortnight, there’s a slight edge to Lisicki on the strength of that aforementioned fourth-round defeat of Williams.
Bottom line, history doesn’t give much indication as to who will earn the trip to the finals on Thursday—neither does their respective forms heading into the match.
Just a little more intrigue for an already intriguing matchup.
Given her thrilling three-set victory over Serena Williams in the fourth round on Monday and the ease with which she dispatched Kaia Kanepi on Tuesday, Sabine Lisicki has emerged as the favorite in the tattered women’s Wimbledon draw.
It would have been understandable had Lisicki struggled against Kanepi following such a physically and emotionally draining victory on Centre Court just the day before, but the German was once again on her game.
She dismissed Kanepi 6-3, 6-3 in a match that took just over an hour to complete.
Throughout the entire fortnight, Lisicki has displayed a strong serve, powerful ground strokes and her somewhat surprisingly strong movement and ease on the grass courts of Wimbledon.
That form was enough to beat the best woman’s tennis player in the world and has earned Lisicki a relatively easy walk through her side of the draw outside of that grueling win over Williams a day ago. Lisicki did drop the first set of her third round match to Samantha Stosur, but she then cruised to 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win.
Lisicki will now be well served by a day off in between her quarterfinal victory and semifinal test against Li Na on Thursday.
The last time in this position, Lisicki lost to Maria Sharapova in the 2011 Wimbledon semifinals. Yet considering her current form, a trip to the finals is certainly there for the taking for the 23-year-old legend slayer.
Radwanska might not have created the headlines Lisicki has during the past couple of days, but she has displayed some strong tennis despite being bothered by a sore right leg.
Her ground game has been consistent, her court coverage has been excellent, and her ability to extend points and get opponents out of position has served her well throughout the fortnight.
All of those components were on display Tuesday against the sixth-seeded Na, who attempted to power her way past Radwanska just as Lisicki is likely to do on Thursday. While she held up against Na, it definitely took a physical toll on the Pole.
Radwanska had to receive medical attention to her thigh in the second set, one she would lose 6-4, and that has to be a concern heading into the semifinal match.
Equally concerning is the fact that Radwanska has played in a trio of three-set battles, including back-to-back tests on Monday and Tuesday.
If her body holds up, Radwanska is playing well enough to reach her second straight Wimbledon final, and without Serena lurking there, it could be a breakthrough week for the talented 24-year-old.
First and foremost, it has to be the physical condition of Radwanska heading into what promises to be a tight and grueling semifinal battle with Lisicki.
Radwanska has spent a lot of energy the past two days and put a lot of pressure on that right thigh to reach her second straight Wimbledon semifinal, and there is no question Lisicki is well aware of that.
How the leg responds during the day off and what the Pole has left in the tank on Thursday will go a long way toward determining her chances against her youthful and powerful opponent.
For Lisicki, the primary question is whether she can keep up the high level of play she's displayed during Wimbledon's second week.
The German was terrific against Serena and played just a notch below that in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
Will a day off now give Lisicki too much time to reflect on what she accomplished on Monday against Williams and what lies ahead with such a wide open draw toward a career-defining win?
It's a legitimate question and one that only Lisicki has the answer to.
The 23-year-old German has been firing powerful ground strokes from all over the court throughout this Wimbledon fortnight.
If she continues that impressive ground game and couples it with her powerful and consistent serving, she is going to be very difficult to beat in the semifinals.
Her power hasn't surprised anyone and will certainly be difficult for Radwanska to deal with, but Lisicki’s footwork has been excellent on the grass surface this year and has only added to the strong form she has demonstrated so consistently.
Only twice in her five Wimbledon matches to date has Lisicki been pushed to three sets, and the ease with which the rising star beat Kanepi will give her extra gas in the tank.
That’s a significant advantage over Radwanska, who has now played a trio of consecutive three-set battles and has been nursing a sore right leg at the same time.
Lisicki would be well served to use her power and solid court coverage to move the potentially weary Radwanska around from the very start of the match.
That will test her opponent’s health and resolve and go a long way toward earning the German her first-ever trip to the Wimbledon finals.
Not to kick a dead thigh here, but to topple Lisicki and earn another trip to the Wimbledon finals, Radwanska will need to be as healthy as possible.
The Pole will have to be as close to 100 percent in her court coverage and service-return game to offset the significant power the German will bring to the match.
Lisicki will undoubtedly look to move Radwanska around the court and make her work for as many points as she can, seeking to further tire her opponent and test that testy leg.
That said, Radwanska has the experience and the grass-court skills to counter punch with Lisicki, and force the 23-year-old into unforced errors that could test Lisicki's confidence and tighten her game significantly.
Radwanska's own ability to move opponents around the court with strong angles and consistent forehands will make Lisicki hit extra balls and test her ability to consistently hit her shots.
A healthy Radwanska playing her own style of grass-court tennis can assuredly end Lisicki's run and get closer to that coveted first slam title.
Lisicki wasn't supposed to get this far. Not because she didn't have the talent to do it but because ultimately she had to get through Serena to make it happen.
Well, the German proved more than up to the task of tackling the world's top-ranked player, so there's no way we're doubting her ability to take it one step beyond the semifinals and on to her first-ever Grand Slam final.
The cards just seem too stacked against the talented-but-worn Radwanska in this difficult test against Lisicki. It's one thing to counter punch with the powerful German at Centre Court. It's entirely another to do it at less than 100 percent, which is a reality the Pole certainly faces.
She did it against Na on Tuesday; however, Radwanska will battle and test the nerves of Lisicki, who will be on the precipice of a career accomplishment. If Lisicki comes up short under the pressure of that moment, Radwanska will be there to pounce.
That said, we're betting on the momentum and power Lisicki has to carry her through a tough three-set battle and to within one victory of a career-defining moment Saturday at Wimbledon.