Friday, July 5, 2013

A Different Kind of Final

About 12 hours from now, Sabine Lisicki and Marion Bartoli will meet in the Wimbledon women's singles final.

I'm sure this isn't what most observers expected when this tournament began two weeks ago.

Lisicki defeated the defending champion, Serena Williams, in the fourth round. That's been typical for the women's singles this year. Bartoli is seeded 15th, Lisicki is 23rd. Only one of the top 14 seeds — Agnieszka Radwanska — got to the semifinals.

Bartoli will be making her second appearance in the championship (she lost in 2007); Lisicki is in her first–ever Wimbledon singles final. Obviously, no matter who wins, it will be her first title at Wimbledon, and that is something that Wimbledon watchers have rarely been able to say. By the time the field has been narrowed down to the last two, most of the time at least one has won the Grand Slam event before.

It has been rarer still for Wimbledon watchers to see a final in which both contestants were seeking their first Grand Slam title, but that is precisely what those in attendance tomorrow will see.

"Neither Bartoli nor Lisicki is a household name," writes Liz Clarke in the Washington Post — and, in the age of Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters, who can argue with that?

The 28–year–old Bartoli seems to be savoring this shot at redemption. "I do just everything a bit better than what I was doing six years ago," Bartoli said this week.

Paul Birch of BBC Sports writes that the final will be a "fascinating encounter between the big–serving Lisicki, 23, and Bartoli, who boasts one of the best returns in tennis."

Birch reports that Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert pick Lisicki to win. Their selections are based primarily on the aspects of the individual games — Navratilova said, "I always go for the person who has the biggest game to win and she has a bigger game."

Evert was more restrained in her praise, but she said, "If Sabine Lisicki plays the same way she has been playing and serves like she has been serving ... then I think she definitely has a slight edge."

I agree with their assessments of the performances in the tournament, but my pick is based on how they have played against each other in the past. I know Bartoli was seeded higher in this tournament, but the fact remains that Lisicki beat a higher–seeded foe in the semifinals (Radwanska) than did Bartoli.

The two haven't faced each other often, but the head–to–head advantage belongs to Lisicki, who is 3–1 against Bartoli.

It should be interesting, and I'm looking forward to watching it tomorrow morning. I feel like I did when I was a child, and my mother made a big production of watching the Wimbledon finals. We would settle in to watch the women's and men's finals and eat strawberries and cream — or what I am sure was my mother's version of it (and may have borne no resemblance to what they actually eat).

I have no strawberries and cream to eat tomorrow — but I think I have a strawberry Pop–Tart somewhere ...

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