In a story that you have to see to believe, Sabine Lisicki is one match away from winning Wimbledon.
The big-serving German shocked the tennis world when she took out Serena Williams in the fourth round of Wimbledon on Monday, and two matches later, she’s proved that result wasn’t a fluke. She's even considered the favorite in the final against No. 15 Marion Bartoli.
With text messages from Steffi Graf and tweets from Boris Becker cheering her on, Lisicki seems poised to be the belle of the Wimbledon ball.
In an enthralling and roller-coaster match on Centre Court in the semifinals, she outhit and ultimately outlasted crafty Polish player Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 2-6, 9-7. Lisicki was down 0-3 in the third set, was broken while serving for the match at 5-4 and was two points away from being out of the tournament a couple of times.
But she persevered and prevailed to make it to her first Grand Slam final as a No. 23 seed.
At the end of the match, she dropped to her knees in elation, overcome with emotion.
When Lisicki celebrates, it’s contagious. Her big smile, big game and tears of joy have captured the hearts of the Wimbledon world this week. For tennis fans, it’s been a welcome change of pace from her all-too-frequent tears of despair.
At just 23 years old, Lisicki has already had a lifetime of disappointments on the tennis court. She hurt her ankle down match point at the 2009 U.S. Open and left the court sobbing in a wheel chair. In 2010, she hurt her ankle at Indian Wells and was off of the tour for five months. At the 2011 French Open, she had to be carried off on a stretcher because of dizziness and muscle cramps.
In 2012, she hurt her ankle in Charleston in a match against Serena Williams, and once again, left the court in tears of agony.
But through it all, Wimbledon has been Lisicki’s safe haven. She’s made it to four Wimbledon quarterfinals, two semifinals and now a final on the hallowed lawns. On Sunday, she will try and take that one step further and become a champion.
To say this is an unexpected run would be an understatement. Lisicki hadn’t won three matches in a row since the Memphis event in February. The week before Wimbledon, she lost to Alison Riske, the No. 167 player in the world, on grass at the WTA Aegon Classic.
In fact, she hasn’t beaten a Top 10 player since Wimbledon last year, when she took out No. 1 Maria Sharapova. While she’s always dangerous at this tournament, she’s so unpredictable and such a danger to herself that she never seemed like a legitimate threat.
However, during this fortnight, her hit-or-miss game has been firing on all cylinders, and most impressively, she’s stayed mentally focused enough to get through the patches.
As others have gotten breaks in the draw, she has bulldozed her own path to the final, taking out the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds along the way.
Her opponent in the final, Marion Bartoli, is a ruthless competitor and tour veteran who isn’t going to hand over the match by any means. But if Lisicki plays the match on her own terms, she’ll be riding off into the sunset with her signature smile—and some shiny new hardware—on Saturday.
She hasn't reached her "happily ever after” yet, but she's awfully close.