When the women’s draw came out on the Friday prior to Australian Open 2013, a murmur went up when arguably the most dangerous of unseeded players was drawn to play 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki.
Sabine Lisicki, once ranked as high as No.12, who defeated top seed Maria Sharapova on her way to last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals and who reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park the same year, would face off against the Dane in a first round blockbuster, a match many thought the powerful German would win.
Wozniacki had fallen in the first round of her previous two Grand Slams in London and New York, and Lisicki is exactly the kind of player that the Dane struggles against, a hyper-aggressive baseliner who feasts on three-quarter-court moonballs.
For much of the match, it looked as if the upset predictions would ring true.
Yet when Lisicki’s game collapsed when she lead 3-0 in the final set, Wozniacki eked out a 2-6 6-3 6-3 victory on Hisense Arena, having successfully navigated a very menacing obstacle.
“It’s a tough first round opponent, you never know what you can expect. She can hit some amazing winners and then do some unforced errors straight after. She has a big serve, so you just need to be on your toes all the time,” the Dane said.
“It’s tough to get your rhythm in the match, but that’s why you just have to accept her winners, say ‘too good’, and just move on.”
Lisicki announced her intentions from the very first ball, pounding two winning returns followed by a backhand winner for 0-40, and a few points later, another forcing return to bring up an immediate service break. Several errors then saw her hand the break straight back to Wozniacki.
But the German managed to keep the winners-to-errors ratio in good shape. Given time by Wozniacki to set up for her big shots, she either struck a cold winner or dragged the Dane well out of court to create an easy put-away. She also displayed deft touch, frequently following her bombs into net and angling volley winners.
Quickly down a set, Wozniacki tried to fire herself up with a few “come-ons” and some fist-pumping, and saw immediate results, moving ahead 4-0 as Lisicki’s error tally mounted.
The No.10 seed found herself serving for the set five games later, in what turned out to be the best game of the match. A tense affair, Lisicki brought up two break points at 15-40 with a lovely wrong-footing backhand, only to throw them away with errors. The tension mounted as deuces ensued, but Wozniacki landed a timely ace to gain the advantage, and sealed the set following yet another Lisicki error.
The world No.36 shrugged off that disappointment, holding serve and then breaking in the next game thanks to a backhand winner. Remaining aggressive, she played a spectacular running forehand winner to secure a 3-0 lead.
By this stage, Lisicki had racked up 22 forehand winners to Wozniacki’s zero – it appeared that on this occasion, fortune would favour the brave.
Not so. The German’s game disintegrated, particularly in the sixth game when she coughed up four errors to help Wozniacki level at 3-3.
From there, the match didn’t last much longer. Lisicki wildly fluffed a smash to surrender the eighth game and fall behind 5-3, and double faulted on the opening point of the next game as she served to stay in the match.
A few points – and errors – later, Wozniacki had booked her passage into the last 64.
She finished with eight errors to Lisicki’s whopping 57, and only 12 winners to 45. In truth, the match was entirely on Lisicki’s racquet, and the Dane really didn’t have to do a lot towards the end to score the win.
But she’ll take one however she can get it.
“I’m just happy to be through to the next round. Today I had to get my fighting spirit up, and fight back, and it paid off,” Wozniacki said.
“It’s a new year, it’s a new tournament, and that’s basically all I think about.”