Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Sabine Lisicki can fly the flag in emulating my success, says Steffi Graf

Germany's Sabine Lisicki
Germany's Sabine Lisicki

Steffi Graf is backing fellow German Sabine Lisicki to follow in her footsteps and reach the Wimbledon final.

Graf was the last German to reach the women's singles final at the All England Club in 1999, when she lost to Lindsay Davenport, while the last of her seven titles came three years earlier.

Big-serving Lisicki was installed as favourite to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish after her stunning upset of Serena Williams in the fourth round, and there was no comedown as she eased past Kaia Kanepi on Tuesday.

Today, the 23rd seed will take on Poland's world number four Agnieszka Radwanska, who lost to Williams in last year's final, and Graf rates Lisicki's chances.

The 22-time grand slam singles champion wrote on her Facebook page: "It's not easy for anybody to come back and play the next day after such a big victory but Sabine Lisicki stayed focused, played smart and truly seemed to enjoy herself as she continued her winning streak at Wimbledon.

"As confident as Lisicki has been playing and the way she's been going for her shots, I believe she has a good chance to make it to the final."

Based on rankings, Lisicki's run here is a surprise, but her game is ideally suited for grass and this is the third straight year she has at least reached the quarter-finals.

The 23-year-old made the last four for the first time two years ago but lost to Maria Sharapova, and she thinks that experience will stand her in good stead.

Lisicki said of the occasion: "I just know that Maria played an unbelievable match. I think this time I'm more ready. I just feel like I'm hitting the ball well. I think I'm moving well. I feel good. And having had the experience in the past, all that together helps me a lot."

Radwanska lacks the power of her rivals at the top of the game but makes up for it with great touch, athleticism and intelligence.

"Agnieszka Radwanska plays a very smart game," said Lisicki. "She moves well around the court. She was in the final last year, so she has a lot of confidence with that."

Much like Lisicki, Radwanska thinks the confidence she gained here last year in reaching her first grand slam final will prove useful.

Radwanska said: "I think being in the final of a grand slam is very good experience, especially now I'm in the semi-final of the same grand slam. So I know how it is, what I have to do to be in the final again."

As the only member of the top four to make it this far, Radwanska will feel she has a great chance of picking up her first grand slam title. But she will not be putting pressure on herself, and said: "I think the bigger pressure is in the first week.

"I think the quarter-final is the minimum for everyone, especially when you are seeded. Now I'm more relaxed. Getting to the semi-finals is already a great result."

Radwanska will have particularly appreciated a day of rest after struggling with a right thigh problem during her victory over Li Na on Tuesday.

The other semi-final will pit two unlikely contenders together, with 15th seed Marion Bartoli meeting Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens.

Frenchwoman Bartoli was a surprise finalist in 2007, eventually losing to Venus Williams, but has had a poor year until now.

Flipkens has come from even further off the radar. After suffering with blood clots last year, she was ranked so low she did not even make it into Wimbledon qualifying.

Flipkens said: "It was already a great performance that I managed to get into the fourth round in the Australian Open this year.

"Being in the semi-finals of a grand slam, of the biggest tournament throughout the year, it has no words. "I've never played Marion. I didn't really watch her matches, I was just focusing on myself."

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