Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Emotions in Motion: Zvonareva Outlasts Lisicki

Sabine Lisicki was one point from pulling the upset of the tournament against No. 3 seed Vera Zvonareva. But it wasn't meant to be.
It started with the above video. And if Sabine Lisicki had crushed a winner on this point I'd be writing an entirely different story. I'd be saying how she'd overcome so much over the last year (a left ankle injury kept her off the tour for 5 months as her ranking plummeted), how Lisicki had once again started to realize her potential (though I think she proved that to be true regardless of today's outcome) and how she had done it by pulling the biggest upset of the first four days of the 2011 French Open.

But her forehand sailed long. Match point saved for Zvonareva, and things only got stranger from there. Lisicki, who had scored her sixth top ten win (first since '09) in April in Stuttgart against Na Li, started to feel the effects of all the stress on her body. Quickly she lost the next two games, then called for the trainer at the changeover.

While Lisicki's blood pressure was checked, Zvonareva --- the consummate professional throughout all of this -- first waited with a towel over her head, then as the medical staff around Lisicki grew, the cool-headed (believe it, it's true) Russian headed to the back of the court to do some footwork drills and keep her blood flowing.

After what seemed like an eternity, Lisicki took the court again. When she did, she had very little petrol in her tank. She did manage to fight off Zvonerava's first match point, but that would only serve to prolong Lisicki's suffering. In the end Lisicki was reduced to tears, as Zvonareva pulled away with a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory. The 21-year-old Lisicki was emotionally and physically distraught, drained to the nth degree, and eventually had to be lifted off the court on a stretcher.

I'll let the video tell the story:

Let's hope that when Lisicki reflects on this match in the days to come, she'll realize that she put herself in position to upset one of the top players in the world on the Grand Slam stage, and there's a lot to be said for that.

After hearing Pam Shriver's report that treatment was closed and that Lisicki was okay, Daren Cahill said on ESPN: "When the dust settles hopefully Sabine will look back and say 'You know what? I need to get fitter and stronger so that this never happens again.'"

Overshadowed by the theatrics, was the fact that Vera Zvonareva dodged a serious bullet in this match, and she did so by dealing with adversity like the seasoned veteran that she is. When faced with a long delay after the 9th game of the third set (and still a game away from a 2nd round loss), Zvonareva never lost sight of her mission, and when Lisicki returned to the court, she was there ready to apply more pressure and get the win.

Zvonareva will next meet Anastasia Rodionova in the third round.

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