Match Day Preview: Sabine Lisicki v Marion Bartoli

It’s not every Championships where we’re guaranteed a first-time Grand Slam winner, but today is that rare occasion as Germany’s Sabine Lisicki takes on France’s Marion Bartoli. The World No.23, Lisicki finally beat the No.4 Seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, to claim her Final place on Thursday. Bartoli had an easier semi-final, defeating an off-form Kirsten Flipkens in two straight sets. Today Lisicki is just about everyone’s favourite, but could this most unpredictable of Championships deliver one last upset?

Bartoli has made the final before – in 2007 – but was beaten by Venus Williams having won just five games. This is Lisicki’s first final, and she’s the first German woman to reach a Grand Slam final since Steffi Graf in 1999.

Lisicki and Bartoli have played each other four times before, twice on clay and twice at Wimbledon. Lisicki won both of the pair’s matches on clay court, and defeated Bartoli in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon 2011. Lisicki took the first set, then Bartoli won a tie-break to take the second before crumbling against Lisicki’s onslaught in the third. Bartoli came out on top in a straight sets, first-round encounter in 2008.

Theoretically, Lisicki has the strongest service game. She’s hit 39 aces so far in the championship to Bartoli’s 12, has a first serve percentage of 63% to Bartoli’s 61% and has reached speeds of 122Mph to Bartoli’s 105Mph. Yet Bartoli actually has a higher percentage of points on first serve, with 73% to 70%, not to mention second serve, with 47% to 46%. Lisicki, however, has a better record on return games, winning 43% to Bartoli’s 39%.

The statistics also need to be considered in the light of each players’ opponents. Lisicki has played and beaten the No.1 and No.4 seeds, and not played anyone ranked lower than World No.46 during the Ladies’ Singles Championships. Bartoli hasn’t played anyone ranked above the World No.15, and the highest ranked player in her first four matches was the World No.70.

Neither player has a flawless record when it comes to SlamTracker. IBM’s predictive analytics defines keys to the match – targets that will help a player achieve victory – based on patterns in their performance in past Grand Slam matches, both against their opponent and against opponents with a similar style. Lisicki hit one of her keys in her match against Radwanska, and two out of three keys in her matches against Kaia Kanepi and Serena Williams. Bartoli won two keys in her match against Flipkens, none in a tough match against Sloane Stephens, and two again in her match against Karen Knapp.

Take it all into account and Lisicki should win, but by no means can she coast her way to victory. On form, as she was against Kirsten Flipkens, Bartoli is a formidable opponent.

On Twitter, both players are already getting strong support. IBM’s social sentiment analytics tracking had Lisicki with a positive sentiment score of 95% and Bartoli with 80% at the end of their semi-final matches, but Bartoli still has her share of fans. “Good luck in the Wimbledon final today, Marion : ) Really hope you win! Go get it! Allez Marion!” tweets @Emilymoz91. However, Lisicki won’t be short of support both on and off Centre Court. “Good luck today Lisicki!! Should be a great final and you deserve the trophy after the women that u beat” tweets @MikeWynter. “Big good luck to Lisicki today! Played amazingly through every round. She really deserves the championship” posts @bronwynwheeler

For a detailed preview of the final, visit IBM’s Game Changers blog. We’ll return later with a full post-match analysis.

Stuart Andrews