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By Chris Oddo

Sabine Lisicki Wimbledon (July 3, 2013) -- One of the least talked about but most impressive things about Sabine's Lisicki's upset of Serena Williams was the way she owned the stage and the moment despite the fact that Williams was the heavy favorite, the one with the five Wimbledon titles, and historically the player who knows best how to claim dominion over  Wimbledon's Centre Court.

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From the beginning of that improbable upset, Lisicki's demeanor spoke volumes about her belief. Belief is a term often used too liberally in tennis circles, but when it comes to Sabine Lisicki, belief is paramount in understanding her remarkable results at Wimbledon since 2009.

Some belief shatters like a car window after a high impact collision at the first sight of trouble, and in Lisicki's case that should have happened early in the second set against Williams when her game went off the rails.

Some belief takes longer to shatter, and in Lisicki's case, hers really should have shattered when Serena Williams jumped out to a 3-0 lead on her in the third set.

The World No. 1 and 16-time Grand Slam champion had won eight straight games at that point, but still Lisicki would not break into pieces.

Backtrack to the early games of the first set, when Lisicki was outplaying Williams and we might have been able to see this coming. Not only was Lisicki outplaying Williams; more remarkably, she was the bigger, more compelling personality on the court.

She pumped her fists, shouted when she won points against Williams, and basically appeared enlivened rather than intimidated by the presence of the game's most daunting figure across the net from her. It's no easy task to do what Lisicki did on manic Monday at Wimbledon. As the saying goes, Serena Williams beats 9 out of 10 women in the locker room, and she beats the other one the first time she flashes a menacing stare or rifles back-to-back aces past them.

But not on this day.

Essentially, Lisicki's belief in herself as a Wimbledon wunderkind was so firm, so resolute, that she actually seemed to believe—maybe she knew?—that Centre Court was her house every bit as much as it was Williams' house. Even before she faced Williams, Lisicki was already in perfect mind to pull a coup against the No. 1 seed, and her words were proof of that.

“I was in that situation last year when everybody was saying that Sharapova was the favorite,” Lisicki said. “I'm probably going into that match being the underdog, but I like that... I have nothing to lose.”

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How then, do we explain Lisicki's resolve when she served for the match against Williams in the 10th game of the deciding set on Monday? Then, she did have something to lose.  What ended up being her signature Wimbledon triumph could have very easily been the one that got away--dare I say, the choke?--but Sabine wouldn't let that happen. Not on her Centre Court. Instead, it was the one that Lisicki refused to let slip.

She clawed back in several games, including fighting back from 3-4, 0-40 down with Williams threatening to break and serve for the match.

Asked if she lost faith at all after losing those eight straight games, or during that harrowing experience in the final set, Lisicki only deadpanned, “No, never.”

With the match on her racquet and the crowd in her pocket, Lisicki pulled the biggest upset of the tournament.

Now, with a battle with the WTA's trickiest spin doctor Agnieszka Radwanska on tap for the semifinals, one wonders if Lisicki can put the finishing touches on a Wimbledon dream that has been brewing ever since she reached the quarterfinals as an unseeded player in 2009.

Two years later, in her next appearance at Wimbledon, she would reach the semifinals as a wild card.

Lisicki dropped a 6-4, 6-3 decision to Maria Sharapova in that semifinal, but this time, Lisicki says, things will be different. “I just know that Maria played an unbelievable match,” she said when asked about her only previous Grand Slam semifinal earlier in the week. “I think this time I'm more ready.”

Wanting an explanation, a reporter pressed her to explain why exactly she feels more ready. "I can't explain it really,” she said. “I just feel like I'm hitting the ball well. I think I'm moving well. I feel good. And having had the experience in the past, all that together helps me a lot.”

Lisicki's success at Wimbledon, however, is probably all the explanation anybody needs. The 23-year-old German owns a career 18-4 record at the All England Club, including four wins in five matches against top five players.

In the last two years, she's knocked out the world's No. 1 player from the draw in convincing fashion.

When you consider that Lisicki is 1-12 against the top five at events other than Wimbledon, and a pedestrian 16-15 at the other three Grand Slams, one gets a sense of just how magical the chemistry between Lisicki and the green lawns of Wimbledon really is.

The question that we're all dying to know is: Will the chemistry be magical enough to enable Lisicki to become the first German Grand Slam champion since Steffi Graf won the French Open in 1999?

Oddsmakers think it will. Lisicki is favored by all of them to win Wimbledon, despite being the lowest seed remaining among the four semifinalists, two of whom have played the Wimbledon final before.

I guess they think it's her house, too.

Win or lose, Lisicki is relishing the opportunity to step out on Wimbledon's Centre Court at least one more time.

“I've done the best here,” she said after her quarterfinal victory over Kaia Kanepi. “I've got a lot of support here. I just love stepping out on that court.”


(Photo Credit: AP)

 

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