Wimbledon: Lisicki avoids letdown, cruises to semifinal

By Naila-Jean Meyers
The New York Times  • 
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Kirsty Wigglesworth | Associated Press
Kirsten Flipkens celebrates her victory over Petra Kvitova to reach a women’s semifinal, her first in a Grand Slam event.

WIMBLEDON — Unlike other giant killers at this Wimbledon, Sabine Lisicki backed up her upset.

A day after ousting the overwhelming favorite Serena Williams, Lisicki deftly and quickly defeated Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-3 yesterday to reach the Wimbledon semifinals for the second time in three years.

“I knew from the past out of experience that I needed to make the switch quickly to be ready, and that’s what I did,” said Lisicki, the No. 23 seed from Germany.

She broke the unseeded Kanepi in the first game of the match and rolled from there, particularly flustering Kanepi with perfectly executed drop shots.

Lisicki, 23, said having been in the quarterfinals here two previous times helped her adjust for this match. And her experience playing in the 2011 semifinals, when she lost to Maria Sharapova, will help her, too.

“I know the different atmosphere,” Lisicki said. “You know everything is starting to get empty in the locker room. It is, you know, a completely different feeling. But I’m glad that I had that experience before. I feel much fresher, fitter, better than two years ago.”

Now the bettors’ favorite to win the tournament, she maintained her big smile and relaxed demeanor.

“To have your hobby as a job is something that not a lot of people can say they have,” she said.

Lisicki knows how to bounce back. Three years ago, just as she was rising up the ranks, she was out for five months because of an ankle injury. The injury changed her perspective.

“Three years ago when I couldn’t walk, I had to learn how to walk again, and that made me appreciate every single moment out there a lot more,” Lisicki said. “That’s why I don’t let anybody take that away from me.”

Kirsten Flipkens, a 27-year-old Belgian, knows how to bounce back, too. Last year, she missed two months when blood clots were discovered in her legs. When she returned, her ranking was so low, at No. 262, that she could not even enter the qualifying tournament at Wimbledon, where she won the junior championship in 2003 at age 17.

Since then, she has experienced a career resurgence. In the past year, she has reached three quarterfinals, three semifinals and two finals, winning her first WTA event last year in Quebec City.

When Flipkens arrived at Wimbledon this year, she was the No. 20 seed after reaching her highest career ranking in June. The superlatives have not stopped. On Monday, when she reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, she kissed the grass and cried.

Yesterday, she one-upped herself with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 8 Petra Kvitova, the 2011 champion here, who appeared feverish and sick in the latter parts of the match. Kvitova was the highest seed left in the bottom half of the draw, which saw the withdrawal of No. 2 Victoria Azarenka and early losses by No. 3 Maria Sharapova and No. 5 Sara Errani.

In the semifinals, Flipkens will face No. 15 seed Marion Bartoli, who defeated No. 17 seed Sloane Stephens of the United States 6-4, 7-5. Bartoli, who decided this season no longer to use her father as her coach, is in the semifinals of an event for the first time this season. She was the runner-up here in 2007.

Despite upsets and injuries decimating the women’s draw, Lisicki has still had a challenging path to the semifinals. Of the quarterfinalists, her opponents had the highest average ranking by far, at 21. Everyone else had at least one opponent ranked outside the top 100.

The opponent will not get any easier for Lisicki. In the semifinals, she will play No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, a 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-1 winner over No. 6 seed Li Na. Radwanska, the Wimbledon runner-up last year, is the highest seeded woman left in the draw.

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