Throughout the 2016 season, a troubling trend developed for Sabine Lisicki. She couldn’t win a three set match. At the end of her 2015 season, Sabine won a thrilling three setter over Barbora Strycova. Sabine was down 1-5 in the third, before winning the final six games of the match. That was the last time Sabine won a three setter. It took Sabine’s 23rd and final tournament of 2016 before the trend finally concluded!
In six of the first seven tournaments of the year, Sabine lost a three setter. The first was in Sydney against Svetlana Kuznetsova. Sabine had previously been 2-0 against Sveta, but since Sabine was coming back from injury, it didn’t seem too bad, especially since Sveta went on to beat Halep to prove she was playing well.
The next tournament was the Australian Open. Fave killer Allertova got her in a tough three setter. Sabine had some chances and it felt like she was going to win, but ultimately she didn’t take the chances and lost the match. It was one of the toughest of the year.
Kuala Lumpur was another tough one, as Sabine had lots of chances. She served for the first set at 5-4 and lost it in a tiebreak. She served for the third set at 5-4 as well. She’d win one more point in the match to lose her third three setter of the year. It was a match she should’ve won.
In Indian Wells, Sabine was defending semifinal points. She won the first set and got it to 4-4 in the second against Larsson. She’d lose the next two games and the third set as well.
Miami was the real killer. The one that really made it become obvious there was a problem with third sets. Sabine was up 5-0 in the third. We were assuming we’d finally have a win in a three setter. Then the unthinkable. Sabine lost the next six games, then the match in a tiebreak. It was really tough after being so close and aware of her struggles in three setters coming into it.
Charleston was better. The third set didn’t go her way, but she played it competitively. Clay isn’t her best surface, so it felt like she did the best she could. That was the only three setter on clay.
Sabine’s next three setter was in Mallorca on grass against Duque-Marino. Sabine won the first set easily. Then Sabine started having trouble with Duque-Marino’s slice. She even asked her coach on a changeover what to do when she played that shot. Darkness set in in the third. Sabine complained, but they kept playing. Sabine did her best, but lost 4-6. This match was four months ago. It was Sabine’s last three setter before her victory in Luxembourg. That’s nine tournaments without a three setter. Not only was she not winning them, she wasn’t even getting to them.
Sabine was playing Golubic for the first time in the first round of Luxembourg. Golubic made the Linz final last week and was coming in with some form. Golubic did get a bit of fortune along the way though. Muguruza retired from their quarterfinal and Keys withdrew from the semifinal. Cibulkova defeated her in the final.
Sabine started the match off to a hot start by winning the first five games. She’s been in that situation a few others times recently, only to end up losing the set. As Golubic found her way into the match, Team Lisicki started to sweat. Sabine had failed to convert any of her four set points before serving for the set at 5-3. Luckily the fifth set point was the charm and Sabine won the opening set 6-3. Golubic was starting to find her way though. Golubic continued to play well in the second set to take it 6-3. The third set started with two holds each before Sabine took charge to win the final four games of the match to win her first three setter in over 13 months.
This win meant a lot to me personally and to many others in Team Lisicki. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen them all so happy after Sabine won a match. It was in all of our heads that Sabine hadn’t won a three setter this year. For most of the year, if Sabine lost the a set, we knew the match was over. To finally witness a three set win is relief for all of us. With the offseason closing in, it’d have been at least another two months of it being in our head. Thankfully we don’t have to deal with that now.
It’s unfortunate the match wasn’t streamed, especially since it’s their top court, and all other matches were streamed. It’d have been nice to watch her first three set victory of the year, but it honestly doesn’t matter at all. I’m not going to be picky about Sabine winning three setters. I’ll take whatever I can get.
Another thing that made this match not so perfect for me was that I wasn’t able to follow the third set. I had to ask a coworker a question, so I figured it’d be best to do it at that time, rather than wait to do it in the middle of the set, but it turned into a lengthy conversation. I didn’t really care though and it was a lot less stressful than glancing at the score every so often. When it was over and I came back to my office, I had no courage to look at the score. I knew the match was probably over. I knew Sabine’s three set record and I didn’t want to learn her season was over. As I tried building up the courage, I saw my phone come on with a notification. It was a message from our Sabine fan group. I read a little bit by accident. It said “such a shame…” So I didn’t need the courage anymore. Sabine lost. I went to the app to check. It was already up on the match since I’d been previously following it. I saw the check mark by Sabine’s name and 6-2 in the third. I thought it must’ve been wrong. Sabine couldn’t have won a three setter. I checked the message and it said “such a shame it wasn’t streamed.” I had a good laugh and it made the victory so much sweeter since I thought she’d lost.
A member of Team Lisicki made a book for Sabine of messages from her fans. It was given to Sabine a few days ago. I’d like to think Sabine read the messages in the book and became inspired to get this victory that meant so much to us all.
It’s good to finally be able to write about Sabine again and in a positive way! I’ve had some inquiries about it, but I just didn’t have the heart anymore to write and go into detail about loss after loss after loss. It’s good to have a positive at the end of this miserable season. Let’s hope this can be a theme for 2017 and I’ll be able to write many happy posts!