LONDON – They should call her “The Bouncer.” No, she doesn’t throw unruly patrons out of saloons. Although she did eject a dangerous character – Sister Serena — from the big playroom called Centre Court. That victory on Monday got her into the Wimbledon quarter-finals, and startled the usual gatherings of 14, 979 with her bouncing routine.
It was Centre Court again yesterday, accompanied by thunder sounding like artillery and muscular rain rattling the court’s retractable, flexible and translucent fabric roof.
The woman from France, Marion Bartoli, who had saved two match points in the second round against Lourdes Dominguez Lino and had bounced the champ, Serena, possessed some artillery of her own. But her real problem was the German nuisance across the way, Sabine Lisicki. Lisicki was hitting balls harder and farther than the bouncer could run. Nevertheless, Bartoli was striving mightily, and the two of them created an extraordinary battle of long rallies, incredible angles, racing across the grass as spectacular retrievers. The sturdy blonde Lisicki – she risked being bounced herself from a winning lead – wasted 3 match points before the concluding bounce was of Bartoli, 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, in 2 hours-21 minutes.
One of a kind, a sometimes bizarre stylist, Bartoli uses both hands on both sides (a la Monica Seles), runs unimpressively but gets there, hustles on every point. Between points she was bouncing on tiptoes, committing little dances, pantomiming shots before receiving. Up and down, up and down, always looking ready and eager. Exercises to relax devised by her father, Dr Walter Bartoli – another of the growing numbers of fathers coaching daughters. Doesn’t happen often with boys. All that bouncing, however, may have hastened her running out of energy.
Marion made the onlookers screaming wild as she erased 3 match points to 5-5. She held to 6-5, then entered a wacky tie-breaker that she won, 7-4 on a drop shot.
About time, thought her fans because that nasty sliced treacherous weapon – the drop shot – was a Lisickian dagger. Droppers got her points on 12 of 14 tries.
Quickly, Lisicki forgot about her match point miseries. “I just refocused and got on with it. I was thinking one thing – to fight, and I wasn’t disappointed.”
Everything has come up roses lately for Sabine, who lives in Bradenton, Fla. She was out for five months with a bad ankle injury last year (misdiagnosed, usually would have taken six weeks to recover), and slipped into this Wimbledon through the back door – a wild card because her ranking had skidded into the 200s. Winning Birmingham (England) catapulted her to No. 62.
With her heavy serve (9 aces yesterday, 43 for the tournament high), driving forehand and speed afoot, Lisicki has a good shot at Maria Sharapova (RUS), the bookies’ favorite who beat Dominika Cibulkova (SVK), 6-1, 6-1
In the other quarterfinals, Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 6-3, 6-7( ), 6-2. Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated Tamira Pasek (AUT) 6-3, 6-1.
Germany has been starved for talent since Steffi Graf retired in 1999 and she and Andre Agassi became roommates. Steffi was the most recent German semifinalist in 1999, weeks after she won the French Open, her last major title. Agassi won the French that year as well.
Sabine recalled having met both Steffi and Andre. “We went for dinner at their place. They’re really nice people and down to earth. That’s what I like about them. They were so successful, legends. To meet them and just see how great people they are, it’s just nice.”
Bartoli, who has been playing practically non-stop since making the French Open and Strasbourg semis, and winning Eastbourne.
She said, “My mind was trying extremely hard, but my body couldn’t do any more. I was starting to cramp. But I fought hard. When I’m just stopping to move between each point, you know it is not a very good sign. No regrets. I ran out of gas in the third set. To beat players like Serena or Justine it is really draining mentally. It’s not just physically, it really takes a lot mentally to face them and beat them.”
She got to the 2007 final after beating Justine Henin, but lost the final to Venus.
When asked about the lack of star power in the current women’s tour, Bartoli replied: “I don’t really think, because we are not named Serena or Venus Williams doesn’t mean we don’t know how to play tennis. We shows a very good match today.”
“I still beat Serena and Henin at Wimbledon. I think I still can be proud of myself.” More happy bounces ahead.END