Lisicki enjoys centre stage to make her thunderous advance

With her vivid joys and dreads, Sabine Lisicki is not just emerging as a plausible winner of this tournament. For the breakthrough she made yesterday – a quarter-final defeat of Marion Bartoli, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1 – resembled an early bloom of springtime, of some overdue renaissance in the women's game.

The first German to make the last four here since Steffi Graf in 1999, Lisicki has every right to become an authentic star, above all on grass. Her notoriously virile serve – reckoned "impossible for a woman" by the French Open winner, Li Na, after her shock defeat in the second round – is only the foundation. Upon it, diversity and delicacy take flourishing root. At 21, moreover, Lisicki has relatively few miles on the clock. She reached the quarter-finals two years ago, but her fulfilment since had been so hindered by injury that she is only here on a wild card.

At the same time, this match disclosed frailties she must still address for a leading, lasting role in the generation that has hitherto hesitated behind the Williams sisters. Lisicki missed three match points when serving for the second set, and lost the consequent tie-break. Perhaps only her opponent's fatigue – palpably wilting after her gruelling encounter with Serena Williams, in stifling heat the previous afternoon – spared her further mental excoriation. But then the whole match had seemed a study in psychological attrition.

For the players' inner tumult was mirrored, and compounded, by the thunderstorm that raged upon the Centre Court roof during the first two sets. At times, the din was such that the players could barely hear line calls. The very spars and girders of the roof, and the grey folds between, seemed almost to represent some giant cerebrum – that inner arena, where commensurate athletic abilities are divided by the turmoil of belief.

From the outside, at any rate, these two thriving players – as champions at Eastbourne and Birmingham respectively, unbeaten on grass this year – seemed to exude different aspects of the tempest. With that big first serve, the German was providing Donner und Blitzen; Bartoli, the black clouds. All her manic antics between points – the swatting of invisible winners, the restive mutterings – disclose the strange, brooding ambition that fortifies a fairly two-dimensional game. Lacking Lisicki's invention, however, she simply could not survive a dip in its ferocity.

Quite apart from her struggle with Williams, Bartoli had endured a three-hour match in the previous round. Lisicki duly gave her the runaround, repeatedly teasing her with drop shots from the baseline, and ending up with 52 winners against a bare dozen for the Frenchwoman. After two hours and 21 minutes, Bartoli no longer had energy even for her nervous rituals – which somewhat begged the question how much they must themselves consume. "My mind was trying extremely hard," Bartoli said. "But my body just couldn't do any more."

Lisicki knows the feeling, having ended her French Open on a stretcher. She has also had to recover from a serious ankle injury, initially misdiagnosed. Hence her simple, infectious pleasure in coming back tomorrow. In a broadened perspective, even Maria Sharapova need not be so daunting.

"Two years ago I was more nervous," Lisicki said. "I couldn't sleep. But now it's different. After the injury, it's so nice to be back. I know how fast it can be gone, so I just try to enjoy every minute I'm on the court. I have absolutely nothing to lose. I'm so thankful to be out there on court again, I'm enjoying every minute." And nor, judging from the ardour of the crowd, is she alone in that.

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk