HONG KONG (AFP) – Sabine Lisicki justified her top seeding by winning the inaugural WTA Hong Kong Open 7-5, 6-3 against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
The German had endured a lean time on tour since losing the Wimbledon final to Marion Bartoli last year, tumbling out of the world’s top 30.
Lisicki only accepted a wildcard into the Hong Kong tournament at the last minute after US Open semi-finalist Peng Shuai and world number seven Eugenie Bouchard pulled out. It proved to be a move that paid off handsomely.
“I’m very happy,” she said. “Especially because it was such a spontaneous decision. We literally decided (to play) three or four days before the tournament started.”
The scoreline may say it was a straight-sets victory, but it was far from straightforward in an error-strewn match at the Victoria Park centre court.
The Czech third seed had seemed destined to avenge her second-round defeat to the German at Wimbledon this year when she raced into a 5-1 lead in the first set, breaking Lisicki’s serve twice.
But Lisicki, who at that point was managing to put only a woeful 40 per cent of her first serves into play, slowly got into her stride to spark a remarkable run in which she broke back twice to level at 5-5.
Asked by reporters if she had thought about letting the set slip away at 1-5, Lisicki gave a robust response
“No. Never. I always fight for every single point no matter what the score is,” Lisicki said.
Pliskova again had chances to break as Lisicki faltered to 15-40 in the 11th game. But the Czech world number 36 couldn’t take advantage and a loose return way out into the tramlines on her second break point caused her to slam her racquet down in disgust.
Lisicki served out for her fifth game in a row and squandered one set point on Pliskova’s serve in the next game, but a searing backhand crosscourt pass in the best rally of the match sealed the set 7-5.
It capped an incredible run of six consecutive games for the world number 31.
Lisicki made it seven on the trot by holding serve to open the second set, but Pliskova finally got back on the scoreboard with a service hold of her own.
When Lisicki broke again and strode out to a 4-2 lead the match looked all but over.
Pliskova had other ideas and fought back from 40-30 to break when Lisicki double-faulted for the seventh time in the match.
However Pliskova was immediately broken again and Lisicki served out to seal the match, collapsing to the court in joyful celebration after ending a drought of almost three years without a singles title.
“I really enjoyed it here in Hong Kong and I think that’s the reason I played so well,” added Lisicki, who now heads for Tokyo this week as the women’s tour continues its Asian swing.