FROM THE ROGER’S CUP IN TORONTO – Before an examination of Petra Kvitova’s ills, let’s start with some positives from the semifinalists: Agnieszka Radwanska played courageously and disposed of Sara Errani 7-6 (1) 7-5; Li Na played smart, made her own mid-match adjustment and fought off Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 7-6 6-2; Sorana Cirstea is having her best tournament ever and smacked Petra Kvitova 4-6 7-5 6-2; and Serena Williams has been untouchable, period.
Recall that the last time that Radwanska and Errani had played, at the 2012 WTA Championships, they nearly killed each other going side to side and back and forth. The contest lasted more than three hours, which ended up being a three-set victory for the fourth-ranked Pole.
The Toronto match had a bit of a similar feel, except it was outdoors in the sunshine rather than indoors at night. Both women are so fast and so resourceful that it is very tough to get a ball past them unless a foe has a wide-open court and substantial power. When they face other, they have to work the points forever, because neither of them can rake winners with the force of say, a Serena or Maria Sharapova.
Consequently, when they walk on court they know that it’s more than likely that they will walk off extremely tired and given that it was a quarterfinal, somewhere back in their heads they must be thinking that if this contest does go three hours again, there woudl be no realistic chance to win the tournament.
Radwanska clearly had that on her mind because she pushed herself further inside the court late in the first set (especially in the breaker), early in the second and then at the very end of the third. The first set featured 11 straight breaks of serve (“For both of us the serves is never the key,” Radwanska said) and in the second set five more.
The final game of the match told the tale, as Radwanska was determined to hit through her foe. That she did, nailing four winners to take it, beginning with a backhand crosscourt. Then she sliced an ace wide into the deuce court, then she took a sky lob out of the air and nailed a forehand crosscourt swing volley winner, and then she ended the contest with forehand crosscourt winner.
Job well done by the former Wimbledon finalist.
“I was trying to focus really hard in the last few points because I knew it could really turn around for her,” Radwanska told me later. “I was looking at the clock and saw two hours already and I said ‘enough I have to end this now.’ I was really pushing myself to stay aggressive because everything is coming back.”
Radwanska will face Serena, who destroyed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1, 6-1. Williams has only lost 10 games in three matches, which shows how well she’s been playing, but it’s doubtful that she will be able to match her low games lost total in Rome in May, when she won the tournament dropping only 14 games in five matches.
But Radwanska knows she could be in for hell.
Williams is the only super elite player she hasn’t scored a win over and after the Pole pushed her to three sets in the 2012 Wimbledon final, Serena destroyed her at the year-end WTA Championships in Istanbul and in the semis of 2013 Miami.
“It’s always a great challenge,” Radwanska said. “She’s dictating everything and when she’s at her best, it’s bad luck.”
This could be fantastic match if Radwanska can manage to get into points and weave her blonde-tinted magic, but she hasn’t been able to in the last two occasions. So she’s not sure what strategy she’ll employ.
“It’s hard to tell,” the Pole said. “I’ll see after a few games because you never know what to do because sometimes she’s serving and returning unbelievable and I can’t even touch the ball.”
Absolutely nothing should be taken away from Cirstea for her week here. She’s beaten two former No. 1s in Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic, as well as a former Wimbledon champion in Kvitova.
She stood up tall when she had too and after a heart-warming talk by coach Darren Cahill when she felt the second set slipping a way, she settled down and her confidence returned and she played the big points much better – when she had to.
But she did not have to play a great match to win as Kvitova doubled faulted on break points in six different games and ended the contest with just 12 winners and 55 unforced errors. Cirstea finished with only 18 winners and committed 47 unforced errors.
While Kvitova is criticized for going on mental walkabouts, is not as if she has been playing brilliantly here and there as of late and forgetting she’s on a tennis court. In the past two weeks, she has left her “A game back at the hotel. She’s simply not dictating enough with her forehand, her serve is much weaker than it should be and she’s not coming to net as often as she should. In short, the tall lefty is not playing authoritative tennis.
She actually she said she was tired and lost her energy as she didn’t sleep well the night before. She said she was exhausted after playing just two matches in Canada, which is stunning given she’s only 24, even if she pulled an all-nighter. She was all but done by the second set.
“The serve was really bad after this, and I didn’t find energy from my legs,” she said. “So that’s why it looks that bad.”
And her 10 double faults overall?
“I think that it was starting because of physically, and then it’s going to my mind it was the mental problem, too. It’s always connected.”
Li and Cirstea have faced off five times, with Li winning a 4-1 edge, including a win at the 2013 Aussie Open.