In the past couple of years, Grand Slam semi-finals in the ladies draw have always disappointed me. 2013 was a particularly poor year with 6 out of the 8 being decided in straight sets. The only 2 to go the distance this year were Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova at the French Open, and Agnieszka Radwanska and Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon… the latter was freaking epic. The womens draw had taken some almighty blows with Serena, Maria and Vika all bowing out, but the second of the semi-finals had held up well with the number 3 seed, Radwanska against a former semi-finalist, in Lisicki. I wouldn’t say the quality of tennis in this match was the greatest, but boosted by an extra time finish going right down to the wire, this was an absolute winner.
Radwanska had spent over 7 hours on the court in her last 3 matches and came out looking like a mummy with heavy taping on both legs. Lisicki had backed up her 4th round win over Serena Williams with a straight sets triumph of Kaia Kanepi and was billed as the favourite for the match. Lisicki controlled the opening set and needed just 1 break of serve to take it, 6-4. However this match saw the good and bad of Sabine and striking parallels to her match with Serena as her game started to fall apart in the second set. Radwanska, solid and highly capable on the grass, won the second set, 6-2.
It was the 69-minute third set that made this match so great. Radwanska went up an early break, but Lisicki flicked the switch and found her A-game again with a whipped crosscourt forehand to level up the third set. Radwanska was noticeably tiring and at 4-4, Lisicki made the breakthrough, which presented her with an opportunity to serve for a place in the Wimbledon final. However Lisicki and her nerves returned as Radwanska played a fine game to break back.
The most impressive aspect of Sabine’s performance was that she managed to maintain a cool head and as the match officially headed into epic status, she was not overrawed with facing scoreboard pressure having to serve to stay in the tournament. There were some brilliant cat-and-mouse points and the one at 2.35 in the video below was particularly special. At 7-7, Radwanska’s first serve, let alone her second serve, was getting bludgeoned and Lisicki took advantage once more to break. At the second time of asking, Sabine booked her spot in the Wimbledon final and sank to the grass again in delight.
Perhaps the biggest talking point from this match was the incredibly cold handshake by Radwanska. I can see it from both angles; Radwanska had just missed what was her best ever opportunity to win a Grand Slam because I am confident she would have beaten Marion Bartoli in the final. However in such a high profile match, she should at the very least have given Sabine some eye contact! I really wish there were more of these types of matches in the latter stages of Grand Slams because they are so entertaining! Wimbledon has featured in 5 of my top 20 matches and this was my favourite from a rollercoaster tournament that will go down in history as one of the most memorable.