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GERMAN OF THE WEEK

TENNIS

‘Boom Boom’ Lisicki – new German tennis hero

Even Wimbledon's ultra-patriotic crowd discovered a soft spot for the 23-year-old Berliner Sabine Lisicki on Monday, when she defeated world number one Serena Williams. She's our German of the Week.

'Boom Boom' Lisicki - new German tennis hero
Photo: DPA

Lisicki followed up her trouncing of the American by making short work of Estonian Kaia Kanepi in the quarter-final, to set up Thursday’s semi against Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. If she makes it, she will become the first German to reach the Wimbledon final since Steffi Graf in 1999.

Bookies promptly anointed Lisicki the favourite for the title, and on Tuesday there was hardly a British newspaper that did not carry a triumphant picture of her on its title page.

Meanwhile, Graf herself joined the German press in lauding Lisicki’s qualities: “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 finals,” the 44-year-old Las-Vegas-based legend said on her Facebook page.

The comparisons were not lost on the British journalists at Lisicki’s press conference, of course, who asked her whether the shadow of Steffi was an inspiration or a burden. “Neither one or the other,” the Berliner answered and smiled. “I just look to myself. I want to give everything, that’s all I care about.”

That ambition was on display five years ago, when she first qualified for the Australian Open as an 18-year-old and promptly upset 16th seed Dinara Safina, declaring afterwards that her aim was to be world number one. At the moment, she is ranked 24, but that ranking is set to be boosted considerably whatever Thursday’s outcome.

It’s all a long way from the moment when she first stepped out onto the Rot-Weiß Tennis club in the Grunewald district of Berlin as a tentative eleven-year-old, having been spotted by Eberhard Wensky, director of the German Open.

According to a report in Die Welt, local league players and trainers dismissed her as someone who “just stands at the back and whacks the ball, but no ball goes in! You can forget it.”

“Her father, who I took on as a trainer at the time when the family came to Berlin, had given her very good foundations,” Wensky remembered. “A system like with the Williams sisters – stand at the baseline instead of retreating, hard groundstrokes, hard serve, a very good technique. And she moves very well on grass.”

Wimbledon has given those qualities their best chance to shine, and her new trainer, Wim Fissette of Belgium – who she has worked with for barely two months – is working on letting her play to her strengths. “He lets me work aggressively, isn’t trying to force defensive tactics on me,” Lisicki said.

One of Fissette’s former charges was multiple grand slam winner Kim Clijsters, and he has found plenty of comparisons. “There was one who hit even harder than her,” he told Tennismagazin. “And at the time Clijsters was playing the fastest pace on the tour. We all knew – Sabine could be really good one day.”

The Local/bk

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TENNIS

Nadal beats Zverev to set Spain up for Davis Cup decider with Germany

Rafael Nadal kept Spain's Davis Cup hopes alive by beating Alexander Zverez on Sunday in the fourth rubber of their quarter-final against Germany.

Nadal beats Zverev to set Spain up for Davis Cup decider with Germany
Germany's Alexander Zverev walks on the pitch during the Davis Cup quarter-final tennis match against Spain's Rafa Nadal at the bullring of Valencia, on Sunday. JOSE JORDAN / AFP
Nadal's 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win in Valencia draws the tie level at 2-2, with Spanish world number 33 David Ferrer up against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in the fifth and decisive match.
 
Two breaks in each set were enough for Nadal to seal an impressively comfortable victory over Zverev in what was only the 31-year-old's second outing since returning from a hip injury.
 
Nadal was forced to retire at the Australian Open in January but, back on his favoured clay, the 16-time grand slam champion showed little sign of rust against Zverev, whom he has now beaten four times out of four.
 
It was also the 24th consecutive match Nadal has won in Davis Cup.
 
He beat Kohlschreiber in straight sets on Friday after Zverev had overcome Ferrer. Germany then took a 2-1 lead when Tim Puetz and Jan-Lennard Struff won the doubles rubber against Spain's Feliciano and Marc Lopez.