Doha: Kerber d. Lisicki

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 /by

KerberThe queasy expression on her face, her shaky shot-making, the demands of playing her sixth match in the last nine days and the medical time-out she took for a stomach issue all seemed to conspire against Angelique Kerber. As she walked off the court facing a one-set, 1-2 deficit against her friend and Fed Cup teammate Sabine Lisicki, Kerber looked like a woman on the verge of tapping out.

Eventually, Kerber returned to the court and found a remedy in consistency in reeling off five straight games as illness and fatigue took a toll on Lisicki—she looked sick and tired of seeing a scrambling Kerber cracking running replies. A revived Kerber won nine of the final 10 games to rally past a reeling Lisicki, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, in a two hour, 11-minute victory of wild momentum shifts that sent her into the Doha second round.

Fresh off her first career WTA title in Paris on Sunday, Kerber collected her seventh straight win. The left-hander earned her seventh Top 20 win with four coming in the last two months. Kerber's problem-solving skills have helped her post a 6-0 record in three-setters this season.

This young German generation is making its mark as four German women—No. 10 Andrea Petkovic, No. 14 Lisicki, No. 21 Julia Goerges and the 22nd-ranked Kerber—reside inside the WTA Top 25 with Hobart champion Mona Barthel playing like a woman on the fast track to joining them.

Both Lisicki and Kerber are sturdy blondes  of Polish descent who have reached Grand Slam semifinals in the past year. Kerber broke to open the match today and built a 2-0 lead only to see Lisicki storm back to win five consecutive games.  Kerber staved off two set points then broke for 4-5, but when she lifted an inside-out forehand long, Lisicki had the first set before a sparse crowd that included Poles Agnieszka Radwanska and Piotr Wozniacki.

Eight of first 12 games went to deuce before Kerber completed the first hold at love to level at 1-1 in the second set. Lisicki owns one of the most imposing first serves of any woman not named Williams and she erased 14 of 17 break points through the first two sets, but began to lose the range on her first serve and Kerber, who served 90 percent in the second set, took advantage of the second serve.  Kerber has soft hands and showed them scooping a flicked forehand back at Lisicki's feet drawing the error to break for 5-4.  Kerber staved off a break point to serve out the set.

Sporting an indigo color-coordinated look with her blue shoelaces, blue barrets and blue finger nail polish matching her blue skirt, Lisicki's struggles continued in the decider, degenerating into a rash of garish errors. Kerber, who won nine of 13 points played on Lisicki's first serve in the last set, broke twice and held at love for 5-1. It got so bad for Lisicki she nearly completely whiffed on a backhand swing volley that gave Kerber match point. She won the ensuing 19-shot rally to raise her record to 4-0 against Lisicki.

Richard Pagliaro

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