It seems now to be a tradition that a winner of a women’s match in the main arena must break down post-match. The trend was set by Serena Williams on Monday. It was followed with gusto by Sabine Lisicki, of Germany.
Williams staunched the tears and restricted herself to a victory moan yesterday after being exiled to Court 2 for her three-set victory over Simona Halep, of Romania.
Lisicki wept after beating Li Na, the French Open champion, in three sets 3-6, 6-4, 8-6, saving two match points in the process.
It was a fabulous contest under the roof of the Centre Court with the German, ranked No.62 in the world, crashing down 17 aces at speeds of up to 124mph.
As the rain forced the postponement of Elena Baltacha’s match with Peng Shuai and the clash between Maria Sharapova and Laura Robson, Lisicki and Li enthralled the Centre Court crowd with a compelling struggle that tilted one way and then the other over two hours.
It finished with Lisicki crumpling to the ground on winning match point as she wilted at the magnitude of the latest stage of a remarkable comeback from serious injury. The 21-year-old, who won in Bimingham two weeks ago and was awarded a wildcard for Wimbledon, had endured a serious ankle injury which kept her off the tour for five months.
Williams wept at recovery from injury followed by victory on Centre Court and Lisicki made the same play. “It’s been terrible,” said Lisicki. “I had no muscles in my left calf after seven weeks on crutches. So I had to start to learn to walk again. It’s been a very, very long road back, and tough road back. But that makes those moments right now sweeter.
“I had to start from zero. I just started to play, step by step, better and better in the last two months. I knew my game was coming together.”
The world No.62 has now won 11 of her last 12 matches on grass and the prospect of Wimbledon galvanised her as she sought to repair a career that was full of promise before the ankle injury
“I was determined to come back,” she said. “I didn’t know how long it would take. But, I was putting all the hard work in. I was fighting for it. I knew I was going to come back strong. And I think I’ve came back stronger.”
Li wilted in the face of this strength, particularly on Lisicki’s serve. She said it was “impossible” to deal with the pace of her opponent. However, she now returns to China as the first Asian woman to win a grand slam tournament and she will be feted by her countrymen and women who have a sense of wonder about her achievement.
The wonder of Williams was somewhat different. The American, winner of 13 singles grand slam titles, questioned why she and her sister, Venus, have each played on Court 2 this year, instead of Centre Court or Court 1.
“They like to put us on Court 2 – Venus and me – for whatever reason,” Williams said. “I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe one day we will.”
A spokesman for the tournament said there was no intentional snub, noting that several factors go into scheduling decisions, including TV broadcasting con-siderations, where players stand in the draw, and what ticket-buyers want to see.
The Williams sisters have combined to win nine of the last 11 Wimbledon singles championships. Serena has won the past two championships and four in all while Venus has claimed six while the sisters have also won the doubles title four times.
“I don’t really think about it. I don’t make it a big issue,” Williams said about the scheduling. “I think at some point, maybe I should.”
After coming back to beat Halep 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, Williams noted that other players did not have to move, adding: “Actually, Venus and I have won more Wimbledons together than a lot of the players or by ourselves in doubles even. So at the end of the day, I don’t know. Like I said, they’re not going to change, doesn’t look like it.”
Williams can be more pleased with her improving form. She has only played four matches since winning Wimbledon last year but remains a favourite for the tournament.
The power of her strokes has not diminished and her movement will improve with match practice and she will look forward with anticipation to her match with Maria Kirilenko, of Russia.
Also through to the second round of the tournament are Germany’s Julia Goerges, who defeated Mathilde Johansson, of France, 7-6 (10-8), 6-2 and Petra Cetkovska, of the Czech Republic, who defeated Poland’s 13th seed Agnieszska Radwanska 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4. Ana Ivanovic, the No.18 seed and former world No.1, continued her encouraging form with a 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Eleni Daniildou, of Greece.
Francesca Schiavone, the player Li defeated in the French Open final, has also progressed, defeating Barbara Zahlavova Strycova 7-5, 6-3.
Robson and Baltacha, meanwhile, had to wait in vain for an opening in play. The Scot’s match was even moved to another court but the rain suspended play before a ball could be served against Peng Shuai. Robson, too, was denied a tilt at Sharapova.
They wil be given their chance today. One hopes it doesn’t end in tears.