Recently I met Florian Meier, who is coaching an up-and-coming women’s tennis player and is running OnlineTennisInstruction.com. The especially interesting part of his website are detailed analyses of many professional tennis players’ games. He wanted to share with the readers of Women’s Tennis Blog his analysis of how Sabine Lisicki plays, what are the positive and negative sides of her tennis. The 26th-ranked German had a very successful month of June with the title in Birmingham and semifinals of Wimbledon.
Sabine Lisicki’s game is all about power tennis. She is definitely one of the hardest hitters on the women’s tour and I believe she has a big future inside the Top 10 ahead of her. Let’s break down her game in detail.
A big reason for Lisicki’s incredible power is that she has great stroke mechanics.
Sabine has a very strong forehand. She can hit winners from anywhere on the court with this shot and also mixes in some nice angles occasionally.
The reason for this power is that she makes great use of the kinetic chain. Basically Lisicki winds up her body and then unwinds it from the ground up, starting with her legs and at the end transferring all the energy into the hitting arm.
The kinetic chain is the key for great tennis strokes.
Lisicki has great stroke mechanics on the backhand side as well. Again we can see the kinetic chain working its magic for maximum racket acceleration.
She starts with good grips and continues with a beautiful unit turn. The unit turn basically means that she starts her motion by turning the upper body rather than starting with the arm. Most recreational players make the mistake to start the swing with too much arm action instead of turning the body.
Another key element in that great backhand is extension. Extension means that she moves the racket out away from the body towards the target which results in power and depth. All great backhands have good extension of the arms to the target.
Sabine Lisicki does not have a very good slice backhand. She starts with both hands on the grip rather than the left hand up by the throat of the tennis racket. Additionally, her racket face is too open when she contacts the ball which results in floaters that can be attacked.
Sabine hits a pretty good forehand volley as well as strong topspin volleys. Her backhand volley is not very good though. She has trouble stabilizing the racket face around contact and basically has the racket face too open.
Sabine Lisicki has one of the strongest serves on the women’s tour. She can dominate matches with this shot, which is very rare on the women’s tour.
In 2009 she hit one of the fastest serves ever hit by a woman. The serve was recorded at 210 kilometers per hour or 130 miles per hour.
LISICKI HITTING ONE OF THE BEST SERVES EVER
In my opinion she is the best server after Serena Williams among the women. Similar to Serena, she has a very fluid service motion and that together with good shoulder flexibility and strength results in a phenomenal serve.
When looking at her serve you can see a very fluid arm action. The arm does not stop at the end of the backswing. A fluid arm action similar to Lisicki’s is the key to a good serve for players at all levels.
Sabine Lisicki is a power hitter. She serves and hits the ball from the baseline as hard as anybody on the women’s tour.
In addition to her power game she is also known for hitting lots of great drop shots. Lisicki understands that players tend to be too far behind the baseline against her and takes good advantage of that with her drop shots.
Lisicki’s tactical weakness is that she often doesn’t play smart tennis from defensive positions. She tends to hit the ball back flat and to the middle of the court too often when on the run or on defense in general. These shots are not very effective and she would be a better player if she could defend with a slice or simply by hitting higher topspin shots that do not need to be hit that hard.
Lisicki’s fitness is one of her biggest strengths. Her game is built around power and even though technique plays a big role in her power, there is no power game without a powerful body.
She has incredibly strong legs and moves well around the court. Her dad is actually an expert in this area and from what I have heard and read they spend a lot of time optimizing her physical training.
Sabine is a very positive person on the tennis court and usually displays a great fighting spirit. It seems like she does get a bit nervous though when she is deep into the majors and sometimes I am not sure if she completely believes in the idea that she can win majors and consistently compete with the world’s best day in and day out yet.
Oftentimes you can see her smile after points, which is one of the best and fastest ways to relax your muscles and your body in general.
So overall she is pretty solid from a mental perspective but she does not have world-class mental toughness like Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams for example.
Lisicki has great technique and great physical skills. There is more room for improvement on the mental and tactical side. Therefore I would rank Lisicki’s skills in the following order:
At Wimbledon 2011 Lisicki showed that she can belong with the world’s best. She still lacks consistency though and needs to prove that she can perform like this day in and day out.
A few slight tactical changes to her game could make her even better, I believe. The biggest area to work on would be her defensive game. Too often she is completely focused on power hitting and forgets that it is not always the best idea to hit the ball hard and flat; especially when on the run or on defense in general.
From a mental standpoint I believe it might still take a little bit of time until she realizes how good she actually is. Once she does that though, she has good chances to win Grand Slams and become a long-term Top 10 player. (photos: Nick Bolletieri, © Neal Trousdale)