Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Germany has been searching for its next great tennis star since...well...quite awhile. Since the glory days of Steffi Graf...Boris Becker...and even Michael Stich.
So, if we can concentrate on the ladies' side, the proud European nation may have its next star in talented teen Sabine Lisicki (pronounced: LEE-zi-kee).
And I stress, "may have."
The 19-year-old Troisdorf native collected her first-ever WTA Tour title over the weekend by ruling a Charleston field that included Top-10 stars such as Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva, Wimbledon queen Venus Williams, Olympic bronze medalist Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova, not to mention climbing 18-year-old Danish star Caroline Wozniacki and former Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli. The surging Wozniacki headed to South Carolina fresh off her clay-court title in Florida.
"I've worked so hard the last couple of weeks and months and it's finally paying off," Lisicki said. "I knew I had the game to beat those players."
The big-serving Lisicki's monster week included a straight-set 6-2, 6-4 upset victory over her childhood friend Wozniacki in the clay-court (green clay) Family Circle Cup final. And clay is her least-favorite surface, preferring instead to compete on hardcourts or grass.
German Sabine Lisicki nailed down her first-ever WTA title, in Charleston.
And the upsets didn't begin with the current world-No. 11 Wozniacki, as Lisicki shocked the former world No. 1 Williams in straights in the third round and knocked off a resurgent Bartoli in the semis. As a matter of fact, the 16th-seeded German not only went 6-0 in Charleston, she accomplished the feat without event dropping a set (12-0) thanks to her overpowering serve, which included nine big aces against a baffled Wozniacki.
"She came up with some good serves," said Wozniacki.
I guess so.
Impressive, to say the least. It was almost a Graf-like performance.
Lisicki collected a cool $187,000 for her surprising run, a run that made her the lowest-ranked player to ever win the Family Circle Cup.
The 5-foot-10, 154-pounder, who turned pro three years ago, is a product of the famed Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where she still both lives and trains. She's coached by her father, Dr. Richard Lisicki, and managed by (big shot) IMG.
Following her success in Charleston, Lisicki is now up to a career-high No. 43 in the world, which is 20 spots better than last week.
The young German started to catch the attention of the tennis world by reaching the third round as a qualifier at last year's Australian Open, where she defeated a 16th-seeded Dinara Safina (ring a bell?), who is now the newest No. 1 player in the world, as of this week. Unfortunately, Lisicki dropped her third-rounder at Oz '08 at the hands of...Wozniacki.
Keep your eye out for a Lisicki-Wozniacki rivalry on the women's circuit.
Also last year, Lisicki shocked former top-ranked American star Lindsay Davenport in a Fed Cup matchup and reached her first-ever WTA final, in Tashkent.
Lisicki, however, is still looking for some better results at the Slams, where she's yet to advance beyond the third round at five majors. She hasn't gotten past the second round in her last four tries.
Trust me...she will. Get past the third round...that is.
Her next shot at a Slam will come late next month on the red clay (which is slower than the green stuff) in Paris.
I'm not gonna sit here and say that Lisicki is the second coming of Graf, but she's at least the best German woman since Anke Huber.