Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ball girls, ball boys, lineswomen and linesmen, please do yourselves a favour and take cover. For it has just been announced that Sabine Lisicki has been signed up to play in the upcoming ASB Classic.

Yes that’s right, she of the booming serve that regularly thunders its way towards fearful opponents at 200kmph will be returning to Auckland this coming January.

She joins Venus Williams as one of the star attractions for the Classic.

Last year Lisicki had to negotiate her way through qualifying to get her opportunity in the main draw. Once there, she struck eventual winner Yanina Wickmayer in the second round. Back then she had a world ranking of 179.

Much has changed in the eleven months since, though. Now ranked fifteen in the world, the twenty-two year old German is a force to be reckoned with, as seen by a semi-final appearance at Wimbledon last July. While she lost to Maria Sharapova, she showed enough to suggest that she will soon be headed for the rarefied air of the top ten.

She’s a lady in a rush. And there appears to be nothing but a little hard work between her and that goal. Already the owner of five career singles titles, two of which were achieved in 2011, it is the equally big hitting Williams that stands in her way of collecting title number six. This, of course, won’t be easy for Lisicki.

Despite Williams being on the comeback trail from injury, she has proven herself to be of the highest calibre for many a year. You don’t win six Wimbledon titles by chance, after all. Needless to say, injury lay-off or not, Williams will still be a threat to Lisicki chances.

One of the reasons players such as Lisicki and Williams head to the Auckland tournament is the chance for more match time. With a weaker draw than the bigger money events in Australia at the same time, the ASB classic is the ideal preparation leading into the Australian Open for competitors of the likes of Williams to get match fit. Or for Lisicki to sharpen her game up before heading across the Tasman to take on the might of the Women’s game in Melbourne.

And what a treat the tennis public are in for. The time is nigh to see one of the established stars of the noughties in action. Not a moment that should be missed, for sure, as Williams is in the twilight of her illustrious career, and more than likely will not be visiting these shores in a playing capacity again.

Then there is the rising star. One who may yet go on to become a great, and emulate her famous countrywomen Steffi Graf on the tennis courts of the world.

There is no better time for Sabine Lisicki to head off in pursuit of that excellence than in Auckland.

And how great would it be if the trajectories of Lisicki and Williams were to converge on centre court at Stanley Street one Sunday in early January?

A better result, there could not be.

If it does happen, just remember - take cover. For there is every chance that there will be any number of fully loaded and highly dangerous missiles hurtling along centre court at record speeds.

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