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Lisicki prevails despite the grunting

Sabine Lisicki pumps her fist between points during her second round match.
by Ron Atkin
Wednesday 27 June 2012

Sabine Lisicki, the 15th seed in the Ladies' Singles was made to work harder than she could have ever expected in reaching the third round with a 3-6, 6-2, 8-6 victory over the highly promising Serbian 20-year-old, Bojana Jovanovski. It was a tight contest on Court 12 of fierce hitting and loud noises from Jovanovski which twice brought complaints to the umpire from Lisicki.

Afterwards Lisicki, a 22-year-old German who lives and trains at the Bollettieri Academy in Florida, said of the Serb's noise, more explosive than Maria Sharapova's screams or Victoria Azarenka's wails, "It was distracting. You usually hear the sound of the ball but I couldn't hear it because of her grunting. That's why we have the hindrance rule. Yeah, that's what I talked about to the umpire.

"It was completely different from Sharapova or Azarenka but off-putting as well. Grunting is part of the game but it shouldn't be off-putting and be an advantage for the one who is doing it. Sometimes I grunt too but I hope it's not as bad. No one ever complains, though."

Jovanovski, sporting a brunette ponytail, took the fight to Liskicki (blond ponytail) from the start, to the approval of her father and coach Zoran, a former professional footballer. It so unnerved Lisicki that she was hustled into a series of double-faults, seven in the opening set, which she lost in 39 minutes, and 12 in all. There were four aces, too, in that opening set, but it was a pair of double-faults which cost her the break to go 5-3 behind, an advantage which Jovanovski converted thanks to three service return errors from the German woman.

At the start of the second set Lisicki survived two break points but was clearly disturbed by her opponent's tactics which, in addition to the vocal noise, included lengthy pre-serve bouncing of the ball, possibly something she has picked up from fellow-Serb Novak Djokovic. Still, Lisicki clung on and it was a change of tactics - the introduction of the drop shot into her game - which turned the match in her favour.

The first Lisicki drop shot, a successful one, so startled Jovanovski that she perpetrated her first double-fault on the next point and was broken to give Lisicki a 4-2 lead. This was extended to 5-2 with a brace of aces and then the Serb dropped serve again and the match was level.

With Lisicki struggling on her first serve, Jovanovski stood well inside the baseline for the second one and it paid off with a break in the opening game of the third set, a break which Lisicki immediately got back before the final set settled into a keenly-fought slogfest which could so easily have gone the Serb's way.

Lisicki fought off two break points to hold for a 6-5 lead before Jovanovski saved three match points from love-40 down with some brave tennis. But it was not enough. When she next served, at 6-7, she led 40-love, only for Lisicki finally to live up to her ranking by getting to match point No.4 as the Serb netted an easy forehand. Another poor forehand, and it was all over after two hours 24 minutes and Lisicki blew kisses to the spectators before donning the pink shoes which had been parked under her chair and heading off a relieved young lady.

She explained her poor serving by saying the occasion, rather than the opponent, had made her nervous. "It was just that I was playing at Wimbledon. I was surprised by myself. But I handled it well in the end, so I was fine."


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