LONDON – In 11 of the past 13 years, Serena or Venus Williams – and sometimes both – reached the Wimbledon final. The sisters collected five championships each in that span.
This time around, Serena lost in the fourth round. Venus didn’t show up at all, sidelined by a bad lower back.
So the 2013 semifinals at the All England Club today will be populated by a far less famous, and far less accomplished, bunch. Still, No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, No. 15 Marion Bartoli of France, No. 20 Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium and No. 23 Sabine Lisicki of Germany provide a fitting foursome for a Wimbledon unlike any other.
Not only has none of the four women left won a Wimbledon title, none has won a Grand Slam title.
Petra Kvitova, the tournament’s 2011 champion, probably put it best after losing in the quarterfinals: Very weird Grand Slam over here.
Indeed. Never before in the 45-year Open era had no previous major champion reached the Wimbledon women’s semifinals.
There were eight owners of Grand Slam trophies in the field when play began last week. One by one, they left, with Lisicki accounting for three: She beat Francesca Schiavone in the first round and Sam Stosur in the third, before stopping Serena Williams’ 34-match winning streak.
Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic lost in the second round, the same day Victoria Azarenka pulled out because of a knee injury. The last major winners were sent home Tuesday, when Flipkens beat Kvitova, and Radwanska eliminated Li Na.
Very unexpected, Bartoli said, describing the semifinal lineup, along with the whole tournament, but that’s also the magic of it.
Today, she will play Flipkens, and Radwanska will face Lisicki.
This is Lisicki’s second Grand Slam semifinal; she lost one at Wimbledon two years ago. Flipkens, meanwhile, only once even made it as far as the fourth round at a major tournament until this week, so she’ll be making her semifinal debut.
The 27-year-old Flipkens and 28-year-old Bartoli have never played a match.
Perhaps not surprisingly, they don’t know much about each other, either.
I only know she has a two-handed forehand and backhand, said Flipkens, who wears eyeglasses on court. That’s about it.
The 23-year-old Lisicki and 24-year-old Radwanska have met twice before, each winning once – but never on grass, never this deep into a tournament, and never at a Grand Slam.
Their matchup represents an intriguing contrast. Lisicki pounds the ball, hitting serves faster than 120 mph, often resulting in aces (she ranks second to Serena Williams on tour this season). She will, on occasion, turn to drop shots, including six for winners in her quarterfinal victory over 46th-ranked Kaia Kanepi.
Radwanska is all about patience and subtlety, mixing speeds and spins and often letting her opponent make the first mistake.