Smiling Sabine faces 'Mad' Marion in Wimbledon final
Smiling Sabine Lisicki mounts incredible fightback to set up final against quirky Bartoli - who was fast asleep just before her semi-final
Sabine Lisicki became the first German woman since 1999 to reach a Grand Slam final when she defeated Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 2-6, 9-7 yesterday in a thrilling Wimbledon semi-final.
The 24th seed Lisicki will face France's 15th-seeded Marion Bartoli, the 2007 runner-up, in tomorrow's title match looking to become Germany's first champion at a major since Steffi Graf beat Martina Hingis to claim the 1999 French Open.
Graf was also the last German to reach a final at a major when she was runner-up to Lindsay Davenport at Wimbledon that same year.
But 23-year-old Lisicki, the smiling darling of the All England Club crowd, did it the hard way.
She was a set and a break ahead before an astonishing collapse put her 0-3 down in the decider with errors flying off both sides. But Lisicki, who put out five-time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round, mounted an astonishing and memorable fightback.
She finished with nine aces and 60 winners which compensated for the 46 unforced errors she sent down, a worthwhile price for her all-out assault.
"It's unbelievable. The last few games were so exciting. We were both fighting and it was a real battle," said Lisicki, who had received a good luck text from Graf ahead of the match.
"Even when I was down 3-0 in the final set, I still believed that I could win, no matter what the score was."
Bartoli, famed for her quirky mannerisms and unorthodox behaviour on court, revealed a pre-match nap in the locker room was the secret of her success as she raced into the final with a 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens.
Bartoli was beaten by Venus Williams in her only previous grand slam final appearance at Wimbledon in 2007, but she finally has another chance to win a first major title after thrashing Flipkens in a 62-minute semi.
Bartoli displayed her full repertoire of unusual jumps, skips, shuffles and twirls of her racket against Flipkens. But even by Bartoli's standards sleeping until 30 minutes before she was due to play one of the biggest matches of her life was a bizarre decision.
"I felt I was just a bit tired and needed a quick nap just to recover from my early morning practice and everything else I had to do to be ready to go on court," she explained. "It was just a quick nap of 15, 20 minutes and then onto the court.
"I just said to Vic, the physio upstairs, to wake me up just in case!
"I'm never really sleeping on the floor," she laughed. "It's in the lady members' dressing room in Wimbledon, so yeah you can have a sofa to sleep on!"
Asked if she would repeat the routine before the final, Bartoli added: "I don't really have any specific plan. It's really more about how I'm feeling.
"If I'm feeling great then I will not sleep. But if I do feel like I need one it's not a problem for me to sleep and then come back and be ready. So far it's worked extremely well so I don't see why I should change that."
Bartoli, tormented by injuries and illness in recent months, failed to even make the last 16 at the Australian and French Opens this year and this was her first grand slam last four appearance since Roland Garros in 2011.
That barren run persuaded her to cut ties with her father Walter, a doctor with no previous experience of tennis who had been her coach since childhood.
Bartoli is now coached by compatriot and 2006 Wimbledon winner Amelie Mauresmo, but her father will be present for the final. "Yeah he's coming, don't worry about that," she said.
Flipkens admitted: "I would have had to play 500 per cent to beat Marion today. She was just too good."