Wimbledon 2013: Women’s final preview

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What has been an injury and upset-ravaged Wimbledon Championships will finally come to a conclusion when two unlikely finalists go head-to-head on Saturday for the most coveted prize in Grand Slam tennis – the Wimbledon women’s trophy which is otherwise known as the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Almost nobody in the world of tennis could have predicted that the final would be between France’s Marion Bartoli and Germany’s Sabine Lisicki.

All the talk had been focused on Serena Williams and whether she could bring home a sixth Wimbledon title to add to the five that she has already won.

These two players will enter the final having taken contrasting-ly significant paths – Lisicki took down three former Grand Slam champions in the early rounds, and also knocked off last year’s finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, while Bartoli has yet to drop a set in her bid to go one better after losing the 2007 final to Venus Williams.

Here is the preview of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships women’s final in full detail.

Sabine Lisicki (23) versus Marion Bartoli (15)
Head-to-head: Lisicki 4-1

Last meeting: Lisicki defeated Bartoli 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, quarter-finals, 2011 Wimbledon Championships.

Road to the final: Lisicki
Round 1: defeated Francesca Schiavone 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: defeated Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-1
Round 3: defeated Samantha Stosur (14) 4-6, 6-2, 6-1
Round 4: defeated Serena Williams (1) 6-2, 1-6, 6-4
Quarter-final: defeated Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-3
Semi-final: defeated Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 2-6, 9-7

Bartoli
Round 1: defeated Elina Svitolina 6-3, 7-5
Round 2: defeated Christina McHale 7-5, 6-4
Round 3: defeated Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-5
Round 4: defeated Karin Knapp 6-2, 6-3
Quarter-final: defeated Sloane Stephens (17) 6-4, 7-5
Semi-final: defeated Kirsten Flipkens (20) 6-1, 6-2

Who would have thought that the final would be between two female players who have battled through contrasting-ly different stages of their careers to reach the summit of this year’s Wimbledon Championships?

The championship match between Sabine Lisicki and Marion Bartoli will conclude, what has been a weird and bizarre edition of this year’s Championships, which saw Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, among others, crash out in the early rounds.

Agnieszka Radwanska became the final top ten seed to fall following her thrilling semi-final loss to Lisicki.

And so, for the first time since Wimbledon in 2007, the final will be contested between two non-Top 10 seeds. On that occasion, Bartoli, the 18th seed, lost to 23rd seed Venus Williams.

This also marks the first time since the 2011 French Open that none of Williams, Azarenka or Sharapova is represented in a women’s Grand Slam final.

Now, let’s have a look at the two finalists in detail.

Sabine Lisicki
First career Grand Slam final (previous best result: semi-finals, 2011 Wimbledon Championships)

The German faced a very tough opening few rounds to her campaign, being drawn against former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the first round and recent Eastbourne champion Elena Vesnina in the second round.

2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur would follow, and then the toughest task of them all – World No. 1, Serena Williams, in the Round of 16.

But Lisicki made it look all too easy, thrashing Schiavone in the first round for the loss of just three games. This was followed by a second round victory over Vesnina, and again Lisicki was impressive dropping just four games.

Her third round match against Australia’s Samantha Stosur was to be scheduled on Centre Court in what would be the latter’s first appearance on the court for a long time.

Lisicki dropped the first set but then stormed back to claim the next two sets losing just three games in the process. Australian involvement in women’s singles ended with Stosur’s loss to Lisicki.

Then, “Mission Impossible”. World No. 1 Serena Williams, gunning for her 35th consecutive match win to match the record set by older sister Venus in 2000 and a sixth Wimbledon title, awaited in the Round of 16.

Lisicki entered the match without any lack of confidence – after all, she had a habit of defeating reigning French Open champions at Wimbledon, as shown by victories over Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009), Li Na (2011) and Maria Sharapova (2012).

The German produced arguably the performance of her life and stunned the Centre Court crowd when she broke Serena twice to take the first set 6-2.

Sprung into action, it appeared Serena would make her customary comeback as she took the second set with relative ease, and then took a 3-0 lead into the deciding set.

But Lisicki would not throw in the towel, and pulled the deficit back to level the set at 4-all.

Then came the crucial moment in the match – she gained a break in the ninth game and eventually served out to the most famous victory of her career.

What then followed was a routine quarter-final victory over Kaia Kanepi, followed by another three-set thriller against last year’s finalist, Agnieszka Radwanska.

The Radwanska match almost went to script in the same way as the Williams match did – she won the first set and then lost the second, and trailed 0-3 in the third set.

Lisicki, as she did in her victory against Williams, then stormed back, leveled the set numerous times, before breaking in game 15 to serve out to a gutsy three-set victory, 9-7 in the final set.

Lisicki is now the first German Grand Slam finalist since Steffi Graf finished runner-up to Lindsay Davenport at Wimbledon in 1999 and the first German of any gender since Rainer Schuettler finished runner-up to Andre Agassi at the 2003 Australian Open.

She has endured a rocky path to get to where she is now – she has suffered numerous injuries which threatened to end her promising career even before it really started.

An ankle injury she suffered at the 2009 US Open saw her miss most of 2010 and saw her ranking drop to World No. 218 by March 2011.

However, after being given a wildcard into that year’s Wimbledon Championships, she would stun everybody by reaching the semi-finals, taking out recently-crowned French Open champion Li Na in the second round, and Saturday’s opponent, Marion Bartoli, in the quarter-finals.

Then, last year it seemed her career was back on track, having reached a career high ranking of World No. 12 in May and once again going deep at Wimbledon, again at the expense of the reigning French Open champion, Maria Sharapova.

But then from there it all started to unravel. Again, a serious injury saw her ranking drop to outside the Top 40 earlier this year but she has now worked her way back to No. 24 and is guaranteed to re-enter the Top 20 by reaching the final.

A first Grand Slam title on Saturday would cap off one of the great fairytale stories in women’s tennis.

Marion Bartoli
Second career Grand Slam final (lost to Venus Williams at the 2007 Wimbledon Championships)

Marion Bartoli enters Saturday’s final as the form player, having not dropped a set on her way to reaching her second career Grand Slam final.

The Frenchwoman was initially thought to have had a tough draw, being drawn against Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, Sara Errani in the quarter-finals and Victoria Azarenka or Petra Kvitova in the semi-finals.

However, all of them crashed out before the semi-finals, therefore opening up Bartoli’s path to the final.

After defeating unseeded opponents in each of her first four rounds without the concession of a set, she faced her first genuine test in the quarter-finals in the form of American rising star Sloane Stephens.

Another routine straight sets victory, she then faced Belgian journeywoman Kirsten Flipkens in the semi-finals.

Bartoli was heavily favoured to win, given her extensive experience and Flipkens’ lack of it. And not surprisingly, Bartoli thrashed her in straight sets.

Now, only Sabine Lisicki and a 1-3 record against her stand in the way of Bartoli and the 2013 Wimbledon title.

The Frenchwoman has waited six years for a second chance at Grand Slam glory and it could not have come any sooner enough.

Since reaching the final of the 2007 Wimbledon Championships, in which she lost to Venus Williams after upsetting World No. 1 Justine Henin in the semi-finals, Bartoli has not returned to the championship match of any Grand Slam event until now.

The retirement of Amelie Mauresmo, herself a former Wimbledon champion and now Bartoli’s coach, left French hopes on the shoulders of Bartoli and the pressure seemed to be too much.

But now Bartoli is back in the Wimbledon final, six years after being thrashed by Venus Williams in the 2007 decider.

If she were to win the title, then her career could potentially take the same route as Mauresmo’s, whereby she won the 2006 Australian Open seven years after losing to Martina Hingis in the 1999 final.

Mauresmo was then aged 26. Bartoli is now 28, and she knows that time is running out to land a maiden Grand Slam title.

Stats that matter
* Sabine Lisicki holds a 4-1 head-to-head advantage against Marion Bartoli.

* Lisicki is bidding to become the first German winner of a Grand Slam event since Steffi Graf won Roland Garros in 1999.

* Bartoli is bidding to become the first French winner of a Grand Slam event since Amelie Mauresmo won Wimbledon in 2006.

* Bartoli’s sole victory over Lisicki came in the first round of the 2008 Wimbledon Championships.

* This is Bartoli’s second Grand Slam final, while for Lisicki this is her first.

* This is the first Grand Slam final to be played between two players outside the Top 10 since the 2007 Wimbledon Championships.

* This is the first Grand Slam final not to feature a top four seed since the 2011 US Open, and the first not to feature any of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka since the 2011 French Open.

The verdict
Both players enter the championship match having taken significant paths of their own – as has already been alluded to, Lisicki took down three former Grand Slam champions, as well as fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, while Marion Bartoli has not dropped a set along the way.

It has been proven in the past that some players who take down big names en route to the final don’t eventually win the championship.

Sara Errani lost last year’s French Open final to Maria Sharapova after taking out three former Grand Slam champions, likewise, Samantha Stosur also lost the French Open final to Francesca Schiavone in 2010 after knocking out Justine Henin and Serena Williams beforehand.

Bartoli herself has been in this boat before, losing to Venus Williams in the final of the 2007 Wimbledon Championships after upsetting then-World No. 1 Henin in the semi-finals.

There are also many other examples, but I won’t list them all.

Given the form of both players, a tough, physical match can be expected and both players will be out to give their all right until the very end.

Prediction
Marion Bartoli in three sets.