2015 has started out the way 2014 ended for Sabine Lisicki: Disappointing. The season did have a promising start with Sabine serving up a bagel in her first set of the season! It looked like she was on her way to an easy victory. Things quickly turned around, however, and Shvedova brought up her level. At the end of the day it was a loss for Sabine 6-0, 5-7, 4-6 to the 66th ranked player in the world, who had to qualify for the tournament. Sabine was never able to find the form as consistently as she did in the first set.
Sabine also teamed up with Martina Hingis to play doubles in Brisbane. They won the title without dropping a set! Sabine couldn’t take that momentum from a doubles title and transition it to success on the singles court in Sydney though. Sydney brought with it more disappointment. Sabine played 17th ranked Carla Suarez Navarro in her first round match on a non-streamed court. She served for the match in the third set at 6-5, but got broken easily and lost in the tiebreak 7-4. Another tough three set loss by the score of 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7).
On top of those tough losses there’s the development of Sabine’s new coach: Cristopher Kas. Sabine played mixed doubles with him at the Olympics in 2012 where they finished 4th. They are good friends. Kas was primarily a doubles player in his career. He played two ATP singles matches, which he lost. The offseason search for a new coach ended with her picking a friend who’s a doubles player. How perfect.
So what do we make of the start to 2015? No wins certainly isn’t the way she wants to head to the first major championship of the year. The losses were close three set matches, however, that could’ve easily been won by Sabine. She’s close. The game is there. Things just didn’t go her way. The first match of the year is always tricky and playing a quality top 20 opponent isn’t easy either. Soon these matches will turn into wins.
Her first serve percentage has been poor. Roughly 55%. She’s hit 16 aces and 12 double faults. The serve doesn’t appear to have improved by the numbers. It’s the same story. One positive is I haven’t noticed any double faults to be those shaky, nervy ones, that barely register on the speed gun, which she hit so often last year. That applies for her doubles matches with Martina too. Perhaps she isn’t afraid of the second serve as much, but it’s not resulting in her holding at a higher rate. The serve is a major part of her game and she needs it to be more of a weapon than it is.
I couldn’t hate her coaching choice any more than I do. After all the “tryouts” or whatever they were at the end of 2014 with all those different coaches, she chose a doubles player to be her singles coach. That sounds so horrible. And on top of that, he’s a friend. AKA the easy thing to do. Seems she wasted her chance to improve her game in the offseason with someone who knows the game and how to make alterations to it. It’s nothing against Kas because I like him and enjoyed watching him play with Sabine at the Olympics. I just want what’s best for my favorite player and he’s not it.
Looking forward to the Australian Open….Sabine is seeded 28th. This means she’ll be due to face a top 8 seeded player in the third round, should she and the top 8 player win their opening two matches. That means a match versus Serena, Sharapova, Halep, Kvitova, Ivanovic, Aga, Bouchard, or Wozniacki. Of those potential opponents, Bouchard would probably be the one to hope for. Wozniacki coming off a wrist injury may not be the worst option either. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Sabine’s main focus has got to be on the first round. There’s some dangerous floaters out there, so her draw for the first few rounds will be of great importance. Sabine doesn’t have that first win of the year off her back either, so she may be vulnerable in her opening match, not having put that behind her. If Sabine can make the third round and loses to a top 8 player, it should be viewed as a successful tournament for her. There’s no shame in losing to one of the best players in the world.
I think we all just get caught up in how great her game can be. We want her to do better than what she does because we know she has the ability to play world class tennis. We continuously look for her breakthrough moment and consistency, but she just isn’t able to produce that form enough. It may be time to lower the expectations even more and to just be happy to see that smiling face on court.