MUMBAI: A stirring comeback from injury always makes for a great story. The rise after the fall. But on Tuesday, Sabine Lisicki, showed the naked frustration of an athlete still stuck somewhere in between.
The German, known for her big serves and forehand, managed to smile through the tough moments of her 6-3, 3-6, 4-6 defeat against Japan’s Nao Hibino in the first round of L&T Mumbai Open. However, she was overcome with emotion when recounting the match and the nightmarish year she is having.
A finalist at the 2013 Wimbledon, Lisicki, ranked 225, is now finding it difficult to even enter Challenger events. She had entered the WTA $125K Series event in Mumbai with a wild card. “It’s so hard to come back after an injury. I never thought it would take this long. I know my game is there. It’s just a matter of putting it together in matches. But somehow that’s not happening.”
Lisicki, once a top-15 member, also dropped to the ITF Futures level to gain some ranking points. “The problem is everyone at this level bring their best game against me,” she said, forcing a smile through tears. “I am like this (emotional) only because it means so much. It’s hard to lose when you work your butt off every single day.”
On Tuesday, Lisicki gave a glimpse of her former game. Her fastest serve was 193kph, and the 29-year-old unleashed a couple of cracking down-the-line forehand winners, one of which sealed the first set. But consistency is a puzzle Lisicki hasn’t been able to solve since multiple injuries.
“It’s just tiring trying to fight for it every single day. Because of my ranking, I am not getting into a lot of tournaments. That makes my schedule chaotic. I just fly out to whichever event I can enter. I think I have been in Asia some 4-5 times already this year. The travel also takes a toll.”
Lisicki has played 16 tournament this year, and her best came in the first two weeks when she made back-to-back semifinals. But she has struggled since, pulling out of the first qualifying round of Miami Masters with an ankle injury. She hasn’t won more than two matches on the trot. This defeat in Mumbai was her third first-round loss in a row.
“The belief is there. I know I can get back to that level. I know it will probably take one close match to take it around, but I don’t know when it’s going to happen. I might play 2-3 more events this year, but then I’m done. I’m already low on energy. That is surprising because I have not played as many matches. I was looking forward to do well here also, but it wasn’t to be.”