James Lawton at Wimbledon 2013: Sabine Lisicki stays clear of all the fear and loathing to progress

Conqueror of Williams progresses serenely in what could become enduring love affair

Fear and loathing is supposed to be what women's tennis is mostly about, and the more intensely so the higher you go. Think of the great queens of Wimbledon, from Billie Jean King through Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf to this week's fallen Serena Williams. You see so much superb talent and competitive character. And there is also an awful lot of pain.

Maybe it was this that made the reappearance of Sabine Lisicki, the nerveless conqueror of Serena less than 24 hours earlier, such an uncomplicated pleasure as she mixed power and finesse quite beautifully in her 6-3, 6-3 quarter-final defeat of young Laura Robson's Estonian persecutor Kaia Kanepi. What happened in just one hour and five minutes of near seamless mastery was, you had to suspect, something that might grow into an enduring love affair.

The Court One fans warmed to the rhythm of Lisicki's powerful ground strokes and the regular grace notes of subtle drop shots and cunning lobs. When the semi-final place with Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska was secured, Lisicki showed off a T-shirt emblazoned with the union flag in Wimbledon green and asked: "Do you like it?"

There was not a lot to dislike in either the performance or the demeanour of the 23-year-old German of Polish origins who had stunned the Centre Court with her composure against a player in Williams who had apparently risen up to all the power and touch expected of a winner of 16 Grand Slams.

Lisicki lost 12 games but still retained enough nerve to see through the most formidable job in women's tennis. Today she had one fleeting mishap in a lost service game but for the rest of the time she was utterly in charge of her battle to reach a second Wimbledon semi-final in three years.

She lost the first one against a relentless Maria Sharapova – "she played an unbelievable game," Lisicki recalled – and she knows well enough that the fourth seed Radwanska also shapes up as an opponent of both tremendous will and rounded game.

Lisicki insists, however, that she is armed with one certainty. It is that she will never mistake a tennis match for an aspect of war. "Tennis is for me joy, nothing less than that," she said.

"You know," she reported, "after beating Serena I felt no pressure at all. I went out there today to enjoy my game – and win the match. That's all I was focused on, just that single match, each and every point that was there." The idea that victory over Serena had liberated her from all her fears, had made her believe that anything was possible, was politely but firmly volleyed away. "I thought anything was possible before the tournament started. I know how it is to be in the semis here. I know the different atmosphere.

"You know, everything is starting to get empty in the locker room. It is a completely different feeling and I'm glad I have had the experience of playing in a semi. I feel I'm going into something I understand, something I can deal with."

Her biggest ally, she believes, is the one that deserts so many young, brilliant girls who had too many questions that could not be contained within the tennis court: perspective. "There are a lot of things which give me joy when I play the game. To do something you love for a living is a great gift that my parents gave to me. And then if you have certain difficulties, as I did a couple of years ago when I suddenly couldn't walk, that makes you look at things very differently."

She sustained an ankle injury in 2010 that kept her out for five months. "My passion is the game and part of it is having the injuries in my past," she added. "Three years ago when I couldn't walk I understood that if I played again I would value every single moment. My injuries meant I had to learn to walk again before I thought about playing tennis.

"It's a simple thing, appreciating you have two healthy legs and are able to walk. When you're on crutches, you cannot carry anything. You need help. So just walking again, carrying my own stuff, was a great feeling even before I went back on the court."

After beating Williams, Lisicki knew very clearly what she had to do. "I couldn't run a single second ahead of myself, I knew very clearly what I had to do. I had to keep to a level.

"I knew Kaia was a tough opponent. You can never underestimate anyone in a quarter-final. She'd gotten here for a reason. She has a good serve. She can hit the ball hard. So I knew I had to be as I was against Serena – completely clear about the challenge in front of me. I did a lot of recovery because I knew we didn't have too much time. I went back home and ate well and went to sleep quite early. Today I did everything as normal."

Somebody wanted to know if the example of her great compatriot Graf was a help or a burden? Lisicki looked bemused. "It is neither," she said quite sternly. "I focus on myself. I want to do the best that I can do and that's all I'm worrying about."

That, plainly, but also maybe a little passing flirtation with the arena whose heart she has already half-stolen. "I've done my best here at the Centre Court, and I have a lot of support here. I just love stepping on that court."

She would say that, of course. At least she would in these days so free from fear and loathing.

BBC has got it right – but don't tell Warsaw

Just when British sports fans thought they were getting the hang of Polish names thanks to repeated exposure to the challenging consonant clusters of Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny, along comes tennis to confuse things.

Sabine Lisicki is German, but of Polish descent, and no doubt Poles and Anglo-Poles watching Wimbledon have been loudly correcting BBC commentators every time they pronounce her name as it appears to be spelt. To Poles, you see, the name Lisicki is pronounced 'Lis – IT – ski' rather than 'Lis – ICKy'. And, in fact, it should really be Lisicka ('Lis – IT – ska'), Sabine being female.

Unfortunately for Polish pedants, the BBC is correct. Lisicki has abandoned her ancestral pronunciation in favour of one that bears more relation to the spelling. Similarly, the former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, born in Denmark of Polish parents, says her surname as it is spelt.

So when Lisicki faces Agnieszka Radwanska (Rad – VAN – ska) in Thursday's women's semi-final, only one of the competitors will be proudly pronounced the Polish way. The purists will prefer the first all-Pole Grand Slam men's meeting between Lukasz Kubot (WU-cash KU – bot) and Jerzy Jarowicz (YE – zhy Ya – RO – vich) in tomorrow's quarter-final.

Nick Szczepanik

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
Clarke Carlisle
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'