The opening night of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix was the end for Sabine. She lost to Timea Babos 6-7(4-7), 3-6. It’s the third time in her last four tournaments she lost her first match. The slump continues and the end is no where in sight.
After Charleston I wrote about how I thought she should pick up a tournament because I foresaw an opening round loss in Stuttgart. Well here we are. Two weeks gone. One match played. This was against the last direct entrance into the field too. This was the easiest player Sabine could’ve gotten and she still couldn’t win. Babos has been playing exceptionally well this year, but she was on a seven match losing streak on clay. It was another match that could be filed under the “winnable” category. A match she had a chance to win.
Speaking of that tournament she should’ve picked up…The player she beat in Charleston, Irina Falconi, ended up winning the tournament in Bogota. It’s a shame this was a home tournament for her because it’s hard to not play them or come into them not fully prepared. Bogota was always a tough choice since it’s so far away from Stuttgart, but the competition level was just what she needed at this time.
It’s a tough situation right now with Sabine trying to get back to form after her injury. She came into it with three straights hard court losses, which were excruciating. This clay season, I believe, is just worsening her problems in finding form and confidence on the court. Clay is her worst surface. It makes these average players even tougher for Sabine to beat since she doesn’t feel comfortable on the surface. I feel like the rest of clay season will be along the same lines of what we’ve seen so far. It’s going to be hard for Sabine to win one match in each tournament. Let alone come up with a big result and deep run. It’s going to be a tough few months here until we can get to grass and back to hard courts. We’ll just have to accept it and know that better times are ahead once she can finally get off clay.
It’s difficult to have that mindset when your fave is struggling so much. All you want is to see her winning and happy again. To feel confident and believe she can win every match again. This mindset that she’s got a difficult few months ahead is tough to cope with. You look at all this means. For her ranking, seeding, and tournaments she can play. It all comes down to accepting it as a fan. For Sabine, she should go into each tournament believing she can and will win, but as a fan we need to be realistic with these tough mounting up.
The unknown is the scariest part to me. How long will it take for her to start playing well? Will she ever play well again? I think of Sorana Cirstea who made the Rogers Cup final a few years ago and has fallen of the face of the earth since. Could that happen to Sabine too? It’s all very concerning and stressful.
It’s a dark time for Team Lisicki. I’ve focused on the negatives, but there were some encouraging signs. For one, she didn’t get double bagelled like last year! Just think about how bad we were feeling after that. We’re in much better shape now! And maybe if Sabine had won, she’d have been double bagelled by Garbine, who loves clay and is in form. Okay, that doesn’t make you feel that much better, but maybe the next thing will.
The best part of the match for Sabine against Babos was the fight she showed. She got down 1-3 in the first set and faced a break point. She saved it and just continued to keep contact with Babos until Babos served for the set. At that point Sabine capitalized on a break point. I don’t know how many times she’s gotten leads in opponents service games when they’ve served for a set or match, only to not get the break. Getting the break here was important. It showed her she can play well in important moments. She followed that break with a hold and found herself two points from the opening set. She was unable to take it though and it went into a tiebreak where Sabine got down 0-6 to start. Sabine fought back though when she could’ve easily given in. She got it to 4-6, before finally dropping the set.
In the second set she got down 1-5. Again Sabine didn’t give up. She quickly broke Babos, who served for the match, then quickly held serve to get it to 3-5. Once again she came close. A couple points away from breaking on three occasions. She just could never get an advantage. I just got the feeling, that had she broken, she would’ve won the set 7-5. Babos seemed to be wilting, while Sabine starting soaring.
That fight has been missing this year, but she showed it’s there in this match. How many times have we seen her just give up in these situations? Remember last year when she was getting double bagelled by Zarina Diyas. She was mentally out of that match a couple games into the second set. When she served to try to avoid the double bagel, she put up no resistance. She didn’t do that this time. She made her fans proud of her effort. I’m sure she was happy with the fight as well. Perhaps what happened last year was in the back of her mind and she wanted to give it her all for her home crowd.
I noticed a few interesting stats I wanted to share. Babos only won 4 more points than Sabine in the match, with a 6-3 set on the scoreboard. With a set like that, you’d expect it to be closer. Babos played 16 more points on her service games than Sabine. Babos did play an extra service game and that last service game was 10 points. Babos didn’t hold at love once in the match though. Sabine held to love three times. In Sabine’s four service games in the second set, she got broken twice and held to love twice. The only points she lost on serve were when she got broken. Pretty heartbreaking since she served so well in the other games.
Sabine is playing doubles in Stuttgart with Lucie Safarova. Their match is tomorrow at 4 PM local time. It’s a positive sign to see her getting more matches, even if it’s doubles. I think she should’ve tried playing more of it this year, particularly in Indian Wells and Miami. If this is it though and they lose, she should try to get a Prague wild card.
I fully expect early losses in Madrid and Rome. She may not win a match. Until we get to Nurnberg, I have little hope. She needs more matches at her competition level, which is outside the Top 70 since she hasn’t beaten a Top 70 player this year. Prague does have a solid field, but I will continue to say that the more matches she gets, the better. There’s more lower ranked players available for Sabine to draw as well. Even if she had to play qualifying rounds to get in, that’d be okay with me. We may find ourselves in the same situation a month from now as we do today. With weeks gone by and nothing to show for it. Few matches, no wins, and more time gone by. Lets take advantage of it this time!