Lisicki Woes Continue in Stanford

(Lachlan Cunningham)

Another tournament, another bad loss. It’s been a horrid 2015 for Sabine Lisicki. She’s had some great results, but the majority of her matches leave you questioning everything. 

Sabine played Kimiko Date-Krumm in the latest debacle. Date-Krumm is a 44 year old from Japan. She has a game style that can trouble Sabine, but when you hold a 6-1, 4-1 lead with a double break, you win the match. Sabine did not. She lost the next four games and almost lost the last five games to lose the set. Sabine forced a tiebreak, but was unable to win it. The third set was a runaway. Sabine has lost a match she shouldn’t have yet again. 

I just want to touch on the comments about traveling and getting to the tournament late and things along these lines.  Sabine was at the draw ceremony last Friday.  She practiced there in the morning.  The latest she could’ve arrived there was Thursday.  She had probably six days in Stanford.  That’s not an excuse.  In comparison, Vitalia Diatchenko played in the doubles final in Baku on Sunday.  She then traveled 16 hours to get to Stanford, with a stop along the way.  It’s a 12 hour time zone difference.  Vitalia has that excuse. Being there for six days is no excuse. 

A match like this leaves you questioning lots of things about Sabine.  Sabine has a record of 17-17 on the year, but let’s delve into that record and her matches further.  She’s won a match at eight of those tournaments and has eight first round exits.  She also lost her one and only match in Fed Cup, but since it’s not an individual tournament, I’ve not counted it.  About half the tournaments she’s entered, she’s won at least one match.  Half the tournaments she’s entered, she’s lost in the first round.  The losses have been bad too. She’s served for matches and lost.  Gotten double bagelled. Lost many from winning positions.  And just didn’t put a good effort in for many others.  It’s been a dreadful year. 

Recently Sabine stopped working with IMG in favor of En2rage.  Honestly I don’t know a lot about what difference this really makes, but it kind of shows her decision making process. IMG is well known and works with many of the best athletes in the world.  In the past Sabine has had a lot of success after working at the IMG academy.  Sabine said she had many reasons for the switch, which I do believe.  Maybe En2rage will provide a more personal level of care to Sabine.  It looks to be just another comfortable move for her though. I’ve heard En2rage has something to do with her boyfriend, Oliver Pocher.  It’s a German company too. Perhaps maybe those wedding rumors are true and she’s moving back to Germany?  But let’s get back on track.  

It seems to me she’s not putting the best people around her to be successful.  The best people for her tennis. I’ve questioned her coaching decision before, and other than one month of this season, it’s not worked.  Her results have not been consistent.  It seems to me the relationship is getting a bit stale (but now is not the time to change).  What this all comes down to is that, as fans, we don’t know the decision making process.  We don’t know exactly how hard our favorite player is working to get better.  In Sabine’s case, we don’t know if she’s ever seen a sports/mental psychologist.  While athletes shouldn’t be that open and let you in on every detail, when you’re seeing the same things happening again and again, you begin to question it.  She’s making the same mistakes and not learning from them.  And that’s when there’s a problem.  Sport is very difficult, I know, but she should be getting better at this stage of her career.  She should be using the experience of losing from winning positions and not let that happen again.  Or as often.   But she’s not.  I’ve seen the same thing for a while now and it’s getting more and more frustrating. 

One question that came to my mind following this loss is: 

How many times, at the end of a tournament, could you say you were satisfied with her performance in the tournament? 

My answer is 3.  Indian Wells, Miami, and Roland Garros.  IW and Miami are obvious. Roland Garros maybe not as much. See even though she could’ve won the second set of the match she lost, she still played well. She just got beat.  She lost to the eventual finalist and matched her best performance ever at Roland Garros.  

Birmingham is the most notable exemption.  The thing is that she didn’t play well all tournament.  She got by on her grass prowess.  Her opponents weren’t that great.  In the semis against Angie, she completely flopped. She didn’t even get one break point on Angie’s serve. That’s the only match I could find in her career where she didn’t get at least one break point. Had Sabine competed better, I’d have included it, but that loss darkened all the good for me in getting through a few of those matches. 

I chose not to include first round losses, but I could see a few of them being included.  Brisbane and Sydney being the two. With everything Suarez Navarro has done since, entering the top 10, a case can be made for Sydney.  It’s just hard to get over that she served for that match. 

This may all be an overreaction.  I mean before this loss Sabine had won a match at five straight tournaments. Before that stretch her best streak this year was two straight tournaments with a win.  It may just be a blip on the radar.  

Now we’re entering a critical stretch of the season though.  She’s defending many points over the next month and a half.  In 2014 she had third round appearances in Rogers Cup, Cincy, and the U.S. Open.  She then won Hong Kong, which she won’t be able to defend, since it’s played later in the year.  Also, for the rest of the season, points come off a week earlier than the tournament is played, due to the extra week between Roland Garros and Wimbledon.  So really she’s defending U.S. Open AND Hong Kong points during the U.S. Open. She’d need a quarterfinal basically or an outstanding performance at one of the Premier 5 tournaments to make up for it.  It’s a stretch of the season that will make or break her.  And her fans… 

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