Whe wants to know what distinguishes Sabine Lisicki from Sabine Lisicki before her agonizingly long injury break, he received illustrative material at the Bad Homburg tennis tournament this Wednesday. In the third set of her round of 16 game against Greet Minnen from Belgium, Lisicki had a great chance to make the preliminary decision when she hit a backhand wide without pressure. At this point she was leading 6:3, 2:6, 4:2 and so carelessly missed the first of two breakballs. Lisicki wiped her face, concentrated again and slammed an unreachable forehand in front of her opponent’s feet in the next rally. Shortly thereafter she won with the 6:2 set and match. In the interview that followed, tears of joy flowed.
The fact that Lisicki reacted calmly at the important moment has to do directly with her story of suffering. After being slowed down by glandular fever, she tore her cruciate ligament in 2020. The inner ligament, outer ligament and meniscus were also damaged. The operation lasted three hours and the rehabilitation 18 months. “It was clear to me: I’m definitely not going to stop like this,” says Lisicki today, but also reports how she was initially unable to lift her leg for a month after the operation: “It was scary. At first you don’t think about playing tennis, but when you can run again,” she says. “Going to the bathroom was like running a marathon.”
“I really missed it”
The stony way back has shaped Lisicki. “Every rehab doesn’t always go uphill,” she says in Bad Homburg: “And it was very, very difficult to accept that when you’re ambitious and a perfectionist.” But the experience has made her more patient. “And a little nicer to myself.” If she misses an opportunity, she says, but the shot she chose was the right one, she no longer takes it ill. Just like against mine. And just like in the previous round against Tamara Korpatsch.
Lisicki’s 6-4, 7-6 win over her compatriot on Tuesday was her first individual win in a professional match in almost three years. Previously, she had approached the competition at three smaller tournaments. At the WTA event in Berlin last week, she received a wild card for qualification. In Bad Homburg it was now one for the peloton. With games on Wednesday’s sold-out Center Court. “I really missed it,” she says. And called out to the audience after the match against Minnen: “Today I won because of you.”
Lisicki has already justified her invitation. The “weapons” with which she once stormed to the Wimbledon final in 2013 are still sharp. Above all, of course, the rock-hard serve. After the first set, Lisicki had won 100 percent of the points if the first was in the field. When she broke the 200 kilometers per hour mark for the first time at the beginning of the second set, there was cheering – and an ace. “When I unpack my best tennis, everything is always possible,” says Lisicki, but also adds: “I know that I’m not that consistent yet.”
In the quarter-finals this Thursday she will face France’s Caroline Garcia, a former top 10 player who is just emerging from a form crisis. “It gets harder from lap to lap,” says Lisicki, who isn’t putting any pressure on herself. She no longer quarrels with missed opportunities anyway. That was Sabine Lisicki before the injury break.