The clay season has arrived and with it have come two excruciating defeats for Sabine Lisicki. Her first clay match was against Anatasia Pavlyuchenkova in the Fed Cup tie against Russia. Lisicki had a match point in the second set, but didn’t convert it and ended up losing the match in three sets. Today she played in a tournament in her home country, where she got double bagelled by Zarina Diyas. There’s no two worse ways to lose a match than the way Sabine Lisicki has lost her last two matches.
As a fan of Sabine, it was very difficult to witness what was happening against Diyas. Nothing was going her way and I was sensing the worst early on in the match. At first I thought it’d just be a set, but then the games just kept going by without winning one. It felt inevitable it’d be a double bagel. It was as if I was watching a replay of a match I knew the score of, but I was still hoping the outcome would be different. Somehow things would work out differently. But they didn’t.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing more terrifying or embarrassing than watching your favorite player getting beaten that badly without having a game on the board. A double bagel just makes it so much worse. You can deal with maybe winning two games in a match, but zero, now that’s tough to deal with. You feel bad enough and to make it worse everyone cracks a joke or talks about it. All the haters have got grins from ear to ear on their faces. Worst of all, even fellow fans turn on the player.
At first I wanted to just completely erase this from my memory, like the match never happened. As I thought about it though, I recognized that it wouldn’t do any good to do that. When you reach these low moments, the worst thing you can do is pretend like it never happened. It’s best to feel what you’re feeling, experience the pain, and make the corrections to ensure sure it never happens again, which is why I’m writing this article. Of course in this instance it’s something I have no control of (Sabine’s tennis), but I truly hope that Sabine delves into this and becomes better from it.
Experiencing this double bagel from the other side of things has given me a brand new perspective of double bagels. I always seem to mention if someone gets double bagelled or root for one to happen when it’s taking place. Particularly, I’ve been hoping Djokovic would pull one off ever since I started watching him play. As good of a player as he is, you’d expect him to have one. Sabine even got one in Charleston in 2013 against Tatishvili, why can’t Nole? He’s come close a few times too. He had double bagel point against Berdych in the China Open final last year. He even almost had a triple bagel against Berlocq at the US Open in 2011, when he got up 14-0, before surrendering a game. Being the #1 player in the world, obviously he has more than enough talent to pull one off, especially against a much lesser opponent who’s overwhelmed on a given day. Now I hope it doesn’t happen though. They’re so difficult to deal with from the side not winning any games. For the player and the fans of that player. The embarrassment is so excruciating and paralyzing to experience. I’d never wish for one to occur again.
It got me thinking though about the margins between the men’s game and women’s game. It’s much more difficult to get a double bagel in the men’s game because holding serve is such a priority. Most of the men have big serves or at least enough of one to win one game in a match. That may be why Nole hasn’t gotten one. In the women’s game, the return is more of the focus. Every game of the match is winnable. There’s no games you’re going to get overpowered in against the majority of opponents.
What happened that led to Diyas to getting a double bagel over Lisicki?
Many things. Nothing was working for Sabine today. We’ve seen performances like these in the past, but she’s always been able to avoid the ultimate embarrassment. She wasn’t so lucky this time. It was just one of those days where errors were flying off her racquet and there wasn’t anything she could do. Diyas wasn’t giving her anything freely either, playing very solidly throughout the match. Sabine had to fight for every inch out there. She wasn’t in the fighting mood either.
The match just got away from Sabine. It got in her head as the match went on. Early in the second set, she was visibly shaking after losing another game. You could tell in the way she played too. She reverted back to the things in her game we haven’t seen this year. She had game points in four of her six service games and didn’t hold once. Sabine has been doing very well at closing out games lately, so seeing her consistently not closing out games is unusual for her. On some of those game points on serve, she hit one of those soft, nervous, second serves into the net for a double fault that we saw so often last year, but haven’t seen this year.
I’ve seen many people comment on the number of points Sabine won to get double bagelled. She won 35 points. That’s about three points a game Sabine won. Nine of the twelve games went to deuce. The only love game in the entire match was the last one. By my count, Sabine had 11 game points in the match. Seven on serve, four on return. She had leads in all but one return game. All this tells us that the match was a lot closer than what the scoreline showed. Sabine had many chances to win games. As the game points went by though, she got tighter and tighter. Like I said before, the score got in her head. Had she converted any of those game points early in the match, I believe the match would’ve been completely different. She’d have been so much more free, rather than uptight.
Many people have said withdrawing from Charleston made her lose the form she’d gained in Indian Wells and Miami. The time off caused her form to disappear. I believe the biggest difference is the court surface. Clay is her worst surface. People have said movement is a weakness in her game and it’s more apparent than ever on clay. If you watch her movement on court, it’s a lot more compromised than it was on hard court, just a few weeks ago. She’s having a tough time sliding into her shots. It makes her defense that much worse. She’s unable to turn around points as easily or effectively from defensive positions. Also, she’s been having a tough time with reading the bounces. I see this is the case a lot more often on return. You’re seeing her frame more balls than ever on return….Just to make this clear though. I’ve seen her turn around many points on grass and hard courts and I don’t agree when people call defense a major weakness in her game, but on clay, I do agree with them.
Fed Cup is another reason many people are using to explain why this loss happened. She lost two rubbers (one singles, one doubles) and was taken out for reverse singles. Obviously the confidence takes a hit when things like this occur. She may have been better off had she not played. I still think the clay factor is the biggest reason why those losses happened in Fed Cup. More than anything though, Rittner didn’t set her players up to succeed. While Sabine and Julia had been playing good tennis and had more time to prepare than Angie or Andrea, putting both of them in when neither has played a live singles match recently, was Rittner hoping to get away with something. It almost worked. Both matches were close, but you’re putting too much pressure on players who haven’t been in that situation. Kerber had won a title the prior week and the way her German teammates are talking about her this week in Stuttgart is telling of who was the best option. Because of Rittner’s poor decisions, it has left her players paying for it.
People are reacting to the loss differently. Whenever losses happen like this, I don’t like it when people say a person shouldn’t be acting a certain way. Just because YOU react differently, doesn’t mean everyone should react that way. People deal with things differently. We all have our own way to heal. Some may use jokes. Some may think and reflect on what happened. Maybe write an article about it 😉 But I’d just like it if people didn’t use their anger at what happened to demean anyone. For example, many people brought up Sabine singing at the change of ends down 6-0, 5-0. Did you not see her sobbing into her towel, as her body shook, just moments before that happened? It’s taking things out of context. Don’t say she doesn’t care. If you haven’t learned by now that Sabine deals with tough moments with laughter, then you’ll never learn it. By that point in the match, she’d already kind of lost control of her emotions. She showed how upset she was at what was happening and how it was impacting her throughout the match in ways I mentioned earlier. She cares. She loves tennis. She wouldn’t want to perform that badly. As Sabine said in press, she just had a “blackout.”