Sabine Lisicki wins her Family Circle Cup opener

After dropping the first set to Renata Voracova, it appeared that the 2009 Champion, Sabine Lisicki, would be a first round casualty at this year’s Family Circle Cup. After a two hour rain delay, Voracova and Lisicki finally took the court. They were the first match on the main stadium. The city of Charleston seems to have adopted Sabine as a favorite after she won her first and only WTA title at the Family Circle Cup in 2009. The crowd was strongly behind the 21 year old German and it’s no surprise. You only have to watch her for a few minutes to realize how charismatic and charming she is. Her smile is contagious.

At the end of the match, Lisicki threw her arms up in the air as if she’d won the tournament all over again, not your usual reaction to winning a first round match against an opponent ranked 92 in the world. To fully understand her reaction, you have to know a little history. Last year, she was unable to defend her title. In fact, the last year has been pretty tough for Sabine. In August 2009, after a spectacular run to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, Sabine reached a career high ranking of 22 in the world. At the 2009 US Open, she badly sprained her ankle when she was match point down against Anastasia Rodionova and had to be wheeled off court. This injury looked worse than it was and she was back on court in less than a month. However, she injured her ankle again at Indian Wells in 2010. She tried to play Miami, but was forced to retire. She didn’t compete again until August. In her post-match press conference she said, “I was on crutches for six weeks, and basically I had to learn to walk again.” Because she was unable to defend her points at both Charleston and Wimbledon, her ranking continued to drop as the year wore on.

Currently, Sabine is ranked 182 and working hard to return to the top of the game where she belongs. It was incredibly clear from her press conference that this first win in Charleston meant the world to her. At 21, she shouldn’t have any trouble bringing her ranking back into the Top 100 and beyond if she can stay healthy. I know the people of Charleston would be thrilled to see her do well this week.

I wrote about the Family Circle Cup’s doggie daycare a couple of days ago and Sabine’s dog has been the center of attention there all week. While I was trying to decide whether asking about her dog was a worthy interview question, someone else asked her if it made her more comfortable to have her dog on site with her. Sabine responded, “Oh, definitely and also the ladies are taking good care of him. So it’s great to have my dog with me. And I love Happy. His name is Happy. And he definitely is a happy dog. You know, it’s great to have my parents and my dog here.” She’s quite right; the women at the doggie daycare have been doting on Happy all week. On Tuesday, one of the tournament staff members even brought their own Yorkie to keep Happy company because he had been the only dog the day before.

It’s great to see Sabine back on court and winning matches. Hopefully she can win a few more this week.

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