After surviving “Wipeout Wednesday,” defending champion Serena Williams may face her biggest test at Wimbledon yet as she takes on a player with an equally powerful serve.
Women’s top seed and French Open winner Williams opens Centre Court play on what is known as “Manic Monday” at Wimbledon -- when all 16 fourth-round matches are scheduled -- against Sabine Lisicki. The 24th-ranked German has knocked the reigning Roland Garros champion out of Wimbledon in three of the past four years.
“She always pulls an upset,” Williams, 31, said two days ago after dropping only two games against 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan. “It will be a really tough match for me. I have to get serious to play it.”
Lisicki, 23, has produced 202 aces this season, second only to Williams, who has 292. Her powerful game got the better of then-French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia at Wimbledon in 2009, China’s Li Na in 2011 and Maria Sharapova of Russia last year.
Having got through the first week, when a record number of top-10 players including defending men’s champion Roger Federer, two-time winner Rafael Nadal and former women’s titlist Sharapova exited the tournament, Williams said she is not taking anything for granted. A record seven players retired because of injury June 26, a day the U.K.’s Sun newspaper dubbed “Wipeout Wednesday.”
“I feel like she’s serving massive,” Williams said of Lisicki. “She plays some of her best tennis on grass.”
Andy Murray, the No. 2 seed from Britain, plays the second match on Centre Court against Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny. With Federer and Nadal out of his part of the draw, the 20th seeded Russian is the highest ranked played left on Murray’s side. Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic closes play on Centre Court against 35-year-old German Tommy Haas, who leads the Serb 2-0 on grass. Yesterday was a traditional rest day at Wimbledon.
Over on No. 1 Court, Laura Robson will try to extend her best run on the London lawns against former quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. Robson, 19, is the first British woman to reach the fourth round since 1998. On No. 1 Court, former Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch intern Dominic Inglot and Treat Huey from the Philippines play U.S. twins Bob and Mike Bryan. The Bryan brothers are trying to win their fourth straight Grand Slam doubles title.
Lisicki reached the second week at Wimbledon after beating former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy in the first round and 2011 U.S. Open winner Sam Stosur of Australia in the third round.
Lisicki’s fastest serve so far at the All England Club is 122 miles-per-hour, one mph slower than Williams, who is considered by former players including three-time Wimbledon winner John McEnroe to have the best serve in the history of the women’s game.
The two have played twice before, with Williams granting Lisicki only three games on hard courts in Stanford, California, in 2011. Lisicki quit in tears after she twisted her ankle during her match against the 16-time major singles champion from the U.S. on green clay last year in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I have nothing to lose,” Lisicki said two days ago after reaching the fourth round. “I’m probably going into that match being the underdog, but I like that. I was in that situation last year when everybody was saying that Sharapova was the favorite.”