FROM THE ROGERS CUP IN TORONTO – Agnieszka Radwanska came somewhat close to finally defeating Serena Williams, but she was unable to do so, not because she didn’t believe she could do it, but because the American played more accurate and courageous tennis at the end of both sets of her 7-6 (3) 6-4 victory.
Williams was not at the very top of her game, so it was perhaps the Pole’s best chance ever to defeat her, but she could not get across the finish line because Serena either came up with some mind -boggling winners at key moments, or Radwanska made the wrong play.
The world number four played more aggressively than usual, which sometimes played in her favor and sometimes did not. She is more comfortable in longer, well constructed rallies, but she felt the only way to get into those was to get Serena off balance. She did a fair amount of times, but not enough at critical junctures.
“It was really close and I had my chances but wasn’t really taking them,” Radwanska said. “It’s always turning against me, especially when you play a top player. I was really trying to play aggressive and going forward, but she’s really playing deep and strong balls. It’s really hard to do anything.”
The match was very fun to watch, perhaps even more entertaining than their 2012 three-set Wimbledon final because there were more lengthy rallies as the slower court at Toronto allowed both players to dig out tough balls. But when push came to shove in the tiebreaker, it was all about Serena.
Radwanska couldn’t pull off a running backhand pass and went down 4-2 and then couldn’t handle a Williams slice serve out wide to 5-2. Serena then missed a lob on the run, but then won a wild point when she misplayed a lob and was forced to short-arm an overhead and eventually took a Radwanska ball out of the air and nailed a forehand swing volley winner. In vintage Serena fashion, she then cracked a big ace down the T to win the tiebreak 7-3.
Williams called for the trainer in between sets and took a pill for what she later said was a stomach problem. She has been irritable most of the week and screamed toward her box on a number of occasions, but said she wasn’t yelling at her coach.
Radwanska broke Williams to 2-1 in the second set but she could not maintain her edge, as she was broken back to 3-3 with a two hot shots to the corners and a ear-splitting overhead.
At 4-4, Williams fought off a break point with a forehand crosscourt winner and then she held with a forehand down the line.
Serving at 4-5, Radwanska knew her back was against the wall and couldn’t come up with a single winner while Williams ended the contest with an gorgeous inside out backhand winner and a forehand crosscourt side.
“She was moving very well and running a lot of good rallies that I think we didn’t have before<’ Radwanska noted. “I think she was really playing great match today.
Williams added that she knew what to do come crunch time.
“I really tried to be more aggressive towards the end,” she said. “Those were obviously really key times of the match. I don’t think I played my best, and I always knew that, worst‑case scenario, I could do a little better.”
Serena will face Sorana Cirstea, whose amazing run continued when she shocked Li Na 6-1, 7-6 (5). Once again 23-year-old Cirstea was the better player in the clutch. She has now beaten Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kvitova and Li in succession. It’s by far the best run of her career. Her first serve has become a weapon, she’s much steadier than she once was, she is more fit and constructs points more intelligently. And she does not lose her head.
One of her coaches. Darren Cahill, told her to take charge and that she did in, blowing out Li in the first set and coming back from 1-4 down in the second set to win the match. In fact she also came from 1-4 down in the tiebreak. She stayed strong while Li imploded.
“Even if I was down 4‑1, I still had the belief and still tried to focus on each point,” she said. “I think this kind of mentality is really helping me to take the pressure a bit off and to be able to be aggressive and take charge. Because I know, for example, a player like Li Na, she’s not going to give it to me. If I want to win this, I have to step it up. This is one of the things that Darren said. She’s not going to give it to you. She’s a top 5 player and that’s why she’s there, because she’s doing the right things. So if you want to win this, you have to earn it. I had to win it on my terms. I’m glad I finished in two.”