Sabine Lisicki, the smiling darling of Centre Court, and the eccentric Marion Bartoli, who happily slept away the minutes leading up to her semi-final, set up an unlikely Wimbledon final on Thursday.
Lisicki, the 23rd seed, became the first German woman since 1999 to reach a Grand Slam final when she defeated Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4, 2-6, 9-7.
French 15th seed Bartoli, meanwhile, eased into her second Wimbledon final with a 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens.
Lisicki, dubbed “Doris Becker” for her howitzer serving by a tabloid British press in honor of her compatriot Boris Becker, will today bid to become Germany’s first champion at a major since Steffi Graf beat Martina Hingis to claim the 1999 French Open title.
Graf, who sent Lisicki a good-luck text ahead of the semi-final, 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.
Lisicki reached the championship match the hard way against last year’s runner-up Radwanska.
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.
That sequence saw her lose nine of 10 games from the midway point of the second set to halfway through the decider, dropping serve on no less than five successive occasions.
However, 23-year-old Lisicki, who put out five-time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round, mounted a memorable fight-back against a player who made the semi-final having spent three hours more on court.
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 in the 2 hour, 18 minute clash.
“It’s unbelievable. The last few games were so exciting. We were both fighting and it was a real battle,” said Lisicki, who had made the semi-finals in 2011.
“Even when I was down 3-0 in the final set, I still believed that I could win, no matter what the score was,” she added.
Lisicki believes it will be destiny if she becomes the first German champion at Wimbledon since Graf in 1996.
“I had a tough draw, but I think it made me ready for each and every single match that I had to play the next round,” she said.
“You know, having Francesca Schiavone in the first round and Elena Vesnina, the Eastbourne champion, all those matches were different challenges. They made me ready to play against Serena, as well,” Lisicki added.
“I just keep going from there. I gained so much confidence,” she said.
Radwanska defended her abrupt, cool handshake with Lisicki at the net.
“What should I do? Dance?” she asked, aware that with Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka out of the tournament, a golden opportunity for a maiden Grand Slam title had passed her by.
Bartoli revealed that a pre-match nap in the locker room was the secret of her success as she raced past Belgian 20th seed Flipkens in just 62 minutes.
“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,” said 28-year-old Bartoli, who was runner-up to Venus Williams in 2007.
“It was just a quick nap of 15, 20 minutes and then onto the court. I actually woke up by myself at 12:30[pm] and by 12:40[pm] I went to the warm-up. That’s just the way I am,” she added.
Asked if she would repeat the routine before the final, Bartoli said: “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,” she added.