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

Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Life and Style
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor