First to secure a spot in Saturday’s final was 15th-seeded Marion Bartoli of France, who capped her preparations by taking a 20-minute catnap in the locker room beforehand only to find that no stockpile of energy was required. Bartoli breezed past Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens, 6-1, 6-2, in just 62 minutes.
The semifinal that followed redeemed the day, rippling with wild momentum swings, clever shot-making and gutsy forays to the net. Germany’s Sabine Lisicki overcame a mid-match mental walkabout to prevail, 6-4, 2-6, 9-7, over Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, the highest seed remaining following the ousters of five-time champion Serena Williams and the twin towers deemed her most credible threats, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.
Neither Bartoli nor Lisicki is a household name. From an American perspective, Bartoli is the player who halted the Wimbledon campaign of South Florida’s Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals, while Lisicki upset the top-seeded Williams the previous round.
For Bartoli, Saturday’s championship represents a hard-earned second shot at a first Grand Slam title. The 28-year-oldFrenchwoman reached Wimbledon’s 2007 final but fell to Venus Williams in straight sets.
“I’m able to hit the ball harder, I’m moving faster — I do just everything a bit better than what I was doing six years ago,” Bartoli said afterward.
For Lisicki, 23, who reached Wimbledon’s 2011 semifinals as a wild card, it’s the realization of a dream. And the reality of being one victory from Wimbledon’s title made her erupt in tears, laughter and an enormous smile once she picked herself up from the frayed Centre Court grass.
Lisicki’s perpetual smile, unabashed love of Wimbledon and delight in signing autographs have made her the darling of British fans these last two weeks.
“It’s so nice to have the support of the crowd,” Lisicki said, wearing a pink T-shirt decorated with a glitter Union Jack during her post-match news conference. “There is no better feeling in the world than to have so much support on that beautiful Centre Court.”
As the tournament’s No. 15 and 23 seeds, neither was expected to get this far. But it has been a confounding Wimbledon from the start, with two-time champion Rafael Nadal falling in the first round and seven-time champion Roger Federer the next.
The women’s side wasn’t immune to carnage, either. But to cast Bartoli or Lisicki as mere beneficiaries of the top players’ misfortune would be a disservice.
Bartoli reached Saturday’s final without dropping a set. And her performance against Flipkens, in what the BBC dubbed “The ‘Who’d Have Thought It?’ Semifinal,” was her most impressive display yet.