A straight sets victory for the No.3 seed against the world No.122 may sound all very routine, but Agnieszka Radwanska knew she was in a match today. This is the ninth successive Grand Slam in which Magdalena Rybarikova has lost in the first round, and this was also the fifth time she has not progressed beyond the opening match here.
Nevertheless it was actually not an outright shock that the Slovakian was capable of posing a test. How so? She won the Wimbledon warm-up title in Birmingham three years ago so she knows what she is doing on grass; and last week in Eastbourne Radwanska, the top seed, fell at the first hurdle to Tsvetana Pironkova. Little wonder Radwanska needed 1hr 37min to see off Rybarikova 6-3, 6-3.
By all means a win for Rybarikova was always an outside bet, but Radwanska’s ranking as the world No.3 belies the uncomfortable fact that she is the only player in the top 10 never to have reached a Grand Slam semi-final.
Earlier this month she arrived at Roland Garros with a mathematical possibility of emerging from the tournament as the world No.1; instead she went out in the third round to Svetlana Kuznetsova. But she is a former junior champion at SW19, a two-time quarter-finalist here and with three titles under her belt in 2012, ultimately that pedigree was too much for Rybarikova.
This was a match littered with service breaks and it was Rybarikova who notched up the first, right at the off, before Radwanska moved up a gear to take a 4-1 advantage, after which the set went with serve. But Rybarikova’s serve was always potent. She often dragged the Pole all over the court as she controlled points, although she fatally could not always close them out. She liked coming to the net and a couple of times showed a delightful touch to put the ball down the line; but Radwanska was also capable of lobbing her to good effect.
Rybarikova might have kept her challenge going longer had she not slipped on the grass at 1-2 in the second set and wrenched her left knee. The pain was sufficient that the trainer was called, and as this match was played on No.2 Court, it took a while for the required help to trek to the far south of the All England Club site and administer treatment. In all, play was held up for 12 minutes while treatment was given.
It is difficult to be certain how much the injury affected her, as she held on to 3-3 before Radwanska motored off and took the win on her second match point. But it was not an overwhelmingly convincing display and future opponents may fancy their chances against Radwanska.
“It was a harder match than the scoreline suggested,” agreed the No.3 seed afterwards. “It took much longer than two sets does often. I don’t think she was too much affected by her injury. I was just glad to get through. Of course I hope that this will be the first Grand Slam where I reach the semi-finals. I’ve got some good results this year – not in Grand Slams, but good results elsewhere, so I’m really going to try to do it here.”