Wimbledon: Lisicki d. Stosur

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You can’t ever overestimate the value of attitude in tennis, a truism that was strikingly evident in today’s third-round encounter between Sabine Lisicki and No. 14 seed Sam Stosur.

Lisicki is ranked No. 24 (although she’s been as high as No. 12) and has struggled with injuries, while the fit and strong Stosur, a former Grand Slam champ, held a 4-1 edge in their head-to-head meetings. But Lisicki loves Wimbledon, and not just because it smiles upon her kind of big game—one founded on an atomic serve and a punishing forehand. She embraces the experience and challenge.

Oddly—and revealingly—you could say the same thing for Stosur, except for that bit about actually enjoying and loving Wimbledon. After all, before this match Lisicki had hit the fastest serve after Serena Williams in this tournament, a 120 M.P.H. smoker. But Stosur had hit 119 M.P.H. herself, and her forehand is also a powerful if somewhat unpredictable weapon. The big difference, really, is that while Lisicki’s relish for Wimbledon has enabled her to overachieve (relative to her record at other events), Stosur has never penetrated the fourth round at SW19.

That will remain the case, as Lisicki came from behind—slowly, but surely—and finished pulling away as she hammered out a three-set, one hour and 40-minute win over Stosur, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Give Stosur some credit. She resolved to be a little more aggressive at this edition of The Championships in order to better employ some of her grass-court assets. Those include an ability to slice and volley, which combined with good returning can really put pressure on an opponent. She also wanted to flatten out her forehand and force herself to return Lisicki’s fearsome serves from a yard-and-a-half inside the baseline. Essentially, Stosur hoped to overcome a basic unease on the turf, along with doubts and weaknesses that have undermined her efforts.

For a solid set-plus, the approach worked. Lisicki made too many unforced errors in the first set, and Stosur played crisp, positive tennis. She served well, using slice as well as her trademark kicker, which is less effective on grass than clay. Stosur saw a break point in the third game and converted when Lisicki tried a poor drop shot—which the Aussie buried with a smash to win the game. It was all the cushion she needed, for Lisicki was unable to break back as the set rolled to its inevitable conclusion.

But Lisicki was undeterred. She played a commanding game to start the second set with a hold, after which she began to find her range as a returner. Stosur took her foot of the gas, and while she never did face a break point in the second game, Lisicki forced three deuces before she yielded.

After a quick hold by Lisicki, Stosur’s forehand—and her composure—began to crumble. The forehand may be her stronger shot, but at times it’s also the one that can be broken down, and that’s especially true when she gets nervous. 

Lisicki snuck in to put away a volley to start that fourth game. Stosur won the next point, but Lisicki answered with a forehand winner. Stosur then shanked a forehand to give Lisicki break point, which the 5’10” former semifinalist eagerly converted with a down-the-line forehand pass for a 3-1 lead.

Lisicki’s faith (not to mention her composure) was rewarded; Stosur would win just one of the next eight games, giving Lisicki a 3-0 third-set lead. Lisicki had grown accustomed to the Stosur serve, cut back on the unforced errors, and held her own service games with authority and confidence. It appeared at that juncture that Stosur might not get another game in the match, but she recovered from a love-40 deficit in the very next game to reel off five straight points for the hold.

But by then Lisicki was rolling, feeling and expressing Wimbledon love. She exploded any theory that Stosur’s unexpected comeback in the previous game would stem the tide with a strong hold for 4-1. It was still a mere one-break lead for Lisicki, but Stosur couldn’t stay in contention. At 30-all in the next game she double-faulted, and Lisicki bagged the second break with a powerful forehand that produced a forehand error.

Lisicki served it out from 5-1, looking very much like a player utterly comfortable, poised, and happy at a tournament that cows so many of her peers.

IBM Stat of the Match: Lisicki won more than 50 percent of her second-serve points (13 of 23, for 57 percent) while Stosur won fewer than half of hers (15 of 32, for 47 percent).

IBM is a proud sponsor and official technology partner for Wimbledon. For more information on this match, including the Keys to the Match, visit IBM's SlamTracker.

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