Are Sabine Lisicki’s health problems behind her? Lisicki's recent return to form on grass indicates that brighter days are ahead for the 21-year-old.
On the Baseline Tennis News
June 22, 2011
Germany’s Sabine Lisicki has seen some dark days. The 2009 Wimbledon quarterfinalist and former top 25 player has been on a downward slide for almost two years, falling outside of the top 100, with little hope of finding a way back.
Her troubles began at the 2009 US Open, where she badly injured her left ankle in the second round. After a bit of rehabilitation on her ankle, Lisicki was back on the courts within a few weeks. She had some luck later in the season, reaching the final of Luxembourg, but lost to Timea Bacsinszky. Unfortunately, it was not a sign of things to come in 2010.
The 2010 season is one that Sabine Lisicki wishes she could forget. She reached the second round three times in first four events of the year (including the Australian Open). She then retired in Indian Wells and Miami in the first round, due to a left ankle injury. She was out of competition for five months with the same injury, pulling out of Charleston (defending champ), as well as the French Open and Wimbledon. The slide continued for Lisicki, falling out of the top 100 after the 2010 US Open, where she lost in the second round to Vera Zvonareva. She finished the season at No. 179 — a far cry from her career-high ranking of No. 22 achieved in August, 2009.
Things were looking up for the 21-year-old in 2011, when she made it to the quarterfinals in Stuttgart, and won the Stuttgart doubles title with Sam Stosur. She then reached the French Open as a qualifier, advancing to the second round against No. 3 seed, Vera Zvonareva. Just when Lisicki was about to close out the match, she lost a match point at 5-2 in the third set, and lost her grip on the match, losing 4-6 7-5 7-5. Afterwards, Lisicki lay on the court, sobbing, and was taken off on a stretcher. The next day, Lisicki announced on her website that she had recently been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance.
Not long after her setback at the French Open, Lisicki dusted herself off, and jumped right back into the game. She entered The Aegon Classic, a grass-court tune-up that she hasn’t played since 2008 (and lost in the first round.) This time, Lisicki went all the way to the final, beating Daniela Hantuchová 6-2, 6-2, winning her second WTA Tour title. You can imagine what that title meant to her, after a two-year struggle with injuries and health issues.
Lisicki’s win at the AEGON Classic bumped her up from No. 100 to No. 62 in the rankings. Since the start of 2011, Lisicki has jumped 117 ranking spots. A clear sign that brighter days are ahead.
And now, with her health back on track and a wildcard in her pocket, Lisicki is poised for success at Wimbledon. Can she channel her 2009 self at Wimbledon? Is it possible that her 2011 self is a better/stronger player? Without a doubt, few players have as much power in their serve as Lisicki (averaging 121 mph).
Lisicki takes on Anastasija Sevastova on Wednesday in her first round match at Wimbledon. A first meeting for the two. “It’s a tournament that I really like because of the whole tradition,” says Lisicki about Wimbledon. “It’s a special tournament with a different atmosphere. Obviously, it’s a big stage and that’s what I really love.”
On another subject, there were some recent rumblings about Lisicki being granted one of the seven wildcard spots for Wimbledon. According to the WTA rules, there is a maximum of six wildcards allowed per year per player, three for main draw. Lisicki had reached her wildcard limit prior to Wimbledon (Indian Wells, Nassau, Miami, Charleston, Stuttgart, and the AEGON Classic).
To clarify, the ITF/Grand Slams have their own set of rules regarding wildcards, which are completely independent of the WTA rules. Grand Slams allow players an unlimited number of wildcards, so Lisicki will not be penalized for Wimbledon, even though she’s gone over the WTA’s wildcard rule limit. The only other potential wildcard that Sabine could get in 2011 would be for the US Open, if her ranking at that time doesn’t allow for direct entry into the tournament. It is confusing to have two sets of rules, but that’s how the rules are currently set up.