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Tennis | Wimbledon

Lisicki, smiling German with grass allergy

Sabine Lisicki, the smiling darling of the Centre Court, has become Wimbledon's favourite German, adopted as an honourary Brit just like Steffi Graf and Boris Becker before her.

But a crippling ankle injury in 2010 as well as a bizarre allergy to grass almost conspired to wreck her dream of ever featuring in a Wimbledon final.

The injury, which kept her off tour for five months and sent her world ranking plummeting to 218 in the world, left her needing "to learn to walk again".

"That was the hardest time of my life. It was a situation I had never been in before and never want to experience again, I felt so helpless."

But she added on Thursday: "I always believed in it (on getting back to playing). Always. I can still remember when the doctor told me that I have to be on crutches the next six weeks.

"I was like, Okay, when can I get back? That was my first question. That period made me such a much stronger person and player that I know anything is possible after learning how to walk again.

"Coming back to play semis after dropping to 220 in the rankings anything's possible."

The 23-year-old blonde has also fought a less serious problem – grass pollen.

"I used to hate grass. I have strong allergies to grass, and have to take medicine, but I have learnt how to handle this," she said.

"I sneeze when I'm playing on the grass, but that's just the way it is. The most important thing is to be out there playing on it."

Within minutes of reaching her maiden Grand Slam final on Thursday, the first German woman since Graf to do so since 1999, she was honoured with the creation of a spoof Twitter account,@TheDorisBecker.

That's the nickname she has earned for her booming game so suited to the All England grasscourts where her record stands at 19-4 compared to a mediocre 16-15 at the three other Slams.

"Lisicki is a big, strong, hard-hitting player who reminds me of a boxer throwing punches from every single direction. The problem is some of the punches land in the right spot and some don't," said coaching guru Nick Bollettieri.

Her rollercoaster semifinal win over Agnieszka Radwanska illustrated the American's point.

She fired nine aces, 60 winners and a 122mph serve.

She also served up seven double faults, taking her total to 20 for the tournament, as well as 46 unforced errors.

"But she's got great power, a strong serve, she works very hard and has a big-match mentality you can't always teach," added Bollettieri.

Lisicki's middle-class parents – Richard Lisicki is a doctor and sports scientist while mother Elisabeth is a painter – emigrated to West Germany from Poland in 1979.

Their daughter speaks confidently in German, Polish and English, the latter delivered with an American lilt, a legacy of living fulltime in Florida.

With the early exits of Serena Williams, knocked out by Lisicki in the fourth round, as well as Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, many believe she will overpower Marion Bartoli in Saturday's final.

And that will be just fine for British supporters who have taken her to their hearts.

"I don't know if I am more popular here than in Germany...I think Germany's pretty happy right now," she said.


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