Sharapova wary of Lisicki
London - Maria Sharapova will bid to overcome the raw power of German wildcard Sabine Lisicki in a battle of the big-hitters in the women's singles semi-finals at Wimbledon on Thursday.
Russian fifth seed Sharapova has been installed as favourite to win her second Wimbledon crown after an impressive march to the last four where she has not dropped a set in five matches.
The 2004 champion was in blistering form in the quarter-finals, where her booming groundstrokes overwhelmed 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 6-1.
But Sharapova faces potentially the most challenging opponent left in the women's tournament in the shape of Lisicki, the 21-year-old who has regularly been clocking serves at around 120 miles per hour.
"A player that's playing with so much confidence and really great grass court tennis is always very dangerous," Sharapova said, agreeing with a suggestion that the semi-final could be decided by power rather than finesse.
"I'm sure it will be powerful. She hits very hard. She has probably one of the hardest serves on the tour, and that's very beneficial."
Lisicki, who downed French ninth seed Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1 to become only the second wildcard in Wimbledon history to reach the last four, has been hailed as the new Steffi Graf by an expectant German media.
British newspapers meanwhile have also embraced Lisicki, who has quickly been nicknamed 'Doris Becker', 'Boom Boombine' (both referring to retired German tennis star and Wimbledon darling Boris Becker) and simply 'Super Sab'.
Lisicki, whose career went into a tailspin when an injury left her barely able to walk, is determined to savour every moment of her career while she can.
She had already been a Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 2009 before disaster struck in 2010 when an ankle injury picked up in Miami sidelined her for five months and sent her ranking plummeting to 218.
"I'm more experienced and calmer. Two years ago it was different. I was more nervous. I couldn't sleep so good," said the German.
The other side of the women's draw sees Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova face fourth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, in a repeat of last year's third round meeting won by Kvitova 7-5, 6-0.
Azarenka, who also lost to Kvitova in the final of the Madrid Masters last month, is confident that her recent record will count for nothing on Thursday.
"It's going to be a different story," she said. "It's a completely different game even from when we played last year here."
Azarenka has also defended her notorious wailing which accompanies most of her groundstrokes, and has been measured at 95 decibels.
"Your body is a machine a little bit. It makes noises. So for me it's perfectly natural now. I really have to exhale with that to move, to hit the shot," Azarenka said. "It's just natural."