Sabine Lisicki came back from a break down in the final set to become the first German woman since Steffi Graf to reach the Wimbledon tennis final.
Lisicki overcame Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 2-6, 9-7 on Centre Court at the All England Club. She’ll play France’s Marion Bartoli, runner-up to Venus Williams in 2007, for the title in two days. Lisicki has beaten Bartoli three times in four matches.
Graf, who won seven Wimbledon singles titles, reached her last championship match in London in 1999, when she lost to Lindsay Davenport. Her win at Roland Garros in the same season is the last major singles title for a German woman.
Lisicki, who was nine years old when Graf lost to Davenport, received a text message from the 22-time major singles champion yesterday “wishing me luck before the match” she said in a news conference.
“She told me to go for it, and I’m just so happy,” Lisicki, 23, said. “I was just fighting for every single point out there. Fought my heart out there.”
The No. 23 seed fired 60 winners, including nine aces, past the fourth-seeded Radwanska, who produced 21 winners and only once ace. Just as in her fourth-round upset of defending champion Serena Williams, Lisicki fought back from 0-3 in the third set to win.
“I had a lot of chances, I was two points from the match,” Radwanska, last year’s runner-up, said in a news conference. “And then she served second serves of over 100 miles-per-hour. It was close.”
The first semifinal was more one-sided, with the 15th-seeded Bartoli beating Belgium’s No. 20 Kirsten Flipkens 6-1, 6-2. Flipkens received treatment on her knee during the match and told the trainer she was struggling to “push off on my serve.”
Bartoli hasn’t beaten anyone seeded higher than No. 17 on the run to her second Wimbledon final. The men’s and women’s draws had lost half of the players in the top 10 -- including former champion Maria Sharapova of Russia and Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka of Belarus -- after the second round due to injuries and defeats.
“I played so great,” Bartoli, 28, said. “Today I saw the ball like a football. I was hitting the ball very cleanly from the start, straight away. Everything was working perfectly, to do that in a semifinal at Wimbledon on Centre Court is an amazing feeling.”
Bartoli produced 23 winners, including five aces, while former junior Wimbledon champion Flipkens had 10 winners including six aces.
Flipkens’s run to her first major semifinal came 15 months after she was diagnosed with life-threatening blood clots in her legs. Ranked outside of the top 250, she couldn’t even enter last year’s Wimbledon qualifying tournament while she struggled for sponsors after her funding from the Flemish tennis association was taken away.
“I think the semis was the maximum I could go to this year,” Flipkens said. “I had to play, I don’t know, 500 percent to beat Marion today. She was just too good. To have this memory for the rest of my life, 10 years after winning the juniors title here, is great. I would have signed for that before my career for sure.”
The semifinal between Lisicki and Radwanska was a match between power and finesse, with the Pole absorbing the pace of her opponent’s ground strokes with slice and sharp angles.
In the first set, Lisicki tried to shorten the points by frequently rushing to the net off a powerful serve.
Serving at 3-3, Radwanska fought off three break points before she was unable to redirect a volley off a net cord back inside the court. Lisicki saved a break point at 5-4 before taking the first set with a well-placed serve out wide to Radwanska’s backhand, followed by a forehand winner.
At 2-3 down in the second, Lisicki lost six consecutive games as she struggled to get a first serve in and her ground strokes frequently sailed long.
“I was fully concentrated in the first set, and then lost some focus in the second,” Lisicki said. “But I recovered again in the third.”
In the final set, Radwanska set up a break point for 2-0 as she managed to get a return back off a 116 mile-per-hour serve that landed on the line in Lisicki’s backhand corner.
Lisicki was forced to play a defensive backhand and dumped the ball in the net on the next shot. Radwanska seemed in control as she led 3-0, only for Lisicki to go on the attack and level at 3-3 with a forehand cross-court.
After breaking for a 5-4 lead, Lisicki served for her first Grand Slam final. Instead, Radwanska won the game, converting her fourth break point as she drew an error on a net approach.
Play went with serve until 7-7, when Radwanska dropped serve on a volley error. Serving for the second time for a place in the final, Lisicki didn’t falter, clinching victory on her second match point with a forehand winner. She fell on the grass to celebrate, then got up to shake hands with Radwanska before sinking to her knees again at the net.
“I definitely am disappointed,” Radwanska said. “When you went that far to the semis, no Serena, Maria, Victoria. Those girls are still playing great tennis, but it’s a little bit different.”