Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wimbledon 2013 Women's Singles Final preview

Sabine Lisicki - US Open 2010
Sabine Lisicki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sabine Lisicki (23) vs. Marion Bartoli (15)

Two weeks ago, everyone expected Serena Williams to win Wimbledon without dropping a set, and the real matter of interest was whether her closest challenger would be Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka. Fast forward to the women's final on Saturday, and after a tournament of upsets in every round, the last two protagonists are Sabine Lisicki and Marion Bartoli.

It certainly is the most unexpected women's final at a grand slam in this nascent century. On closer introspection however, both players have reached the final on merit and considering their mastery of grass court tennis, maybe this isn't such a big surprise after all. Lisicki has beaten no.1's at Wimbledon the past four years, and Bartoli was runner-up at Wimbledon in 2007.

Lisicki has been playing some inspirational tennis. Coming back from 3-0 down in the final set to beat last year's champion and runner-up in different matches demonstrates her mental fortitude that is based on a powerful game that when switched on can change the momentum of a match in a matter of minutes. Lisicki has become the darling of the crowd, with her constant smiling even after her own errors, an endearing quality in the modern game where displaying emotion has been constricted to fist pumps and tantrums. The German has also been the best server of the tournament by a fair distance, and more importantly manages to save her biggest serves for the clutch points.

Marion Bartoli hasn't lost a set the whole tournament, an amazing feat that has been based on her exceptional return game. I mentioned previously that after Serena, no other player on the WTA tour is as comfortable standing within the baseline on second serves as Bartoli. The Frenchwoman positions herself perfectly to play an attacking shot either on the forehand or backhand. Marry that with her unorthodox slices and unique angles, and one understands why she has succeeded on grass.

Marion Bartoli at the 2009 US Open
Marion Bartoli  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bartoli's serve is a weakness that Lisicki will look to advantage of by dictating points with her aggressive groundstrokes. Lisicki also has the advantage of her big serves. The biggest drawback for Lisicki could be her composure. Despite her impressive victories, she can hit a patch of ugly unforced errors just as easily as a passage of brilliant winners. Playing against an opponent who has reached a final before, could mean more nerves for Lisicki. By the same token beating Serena and Radwanska also required her to have composure. Bartoli does have an advantage due to the fact that she has spent very little time on court. If the final goes to a third set, Bartoli might just have an edge.

In keeping with the theme of an unexpected final, it's a match-up that is unpredictable to call. If Lisicki is switched on, she is the better player on grass. However, there are alway intangibles involved in a final, and only a brave gambler would count Bartoli out. What can be guaranteed is that we will have a new grand slam champion, and the winner will be amongst two of the most liked players on the women's tour. That alone is a victory that will be cherished by many tennis lovers.
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