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Radwanska takes change of courts in her stride

Agnieszka Radwanska hits a volley during her quarter-final match against Maria Kirilenko.
by Benjamin Snyder
Tuesday 3 July 2012

On a day of stop and start tennis at the All England Club, the No.3 seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, defeated the No.17, Maria Kirilenko 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 after the players were forced to abandon their quarter-final on No.1 court earlier in the afternoon for a Centre Court finish hours later. In the end, it took Radwanska just 15 minutes to finish off the match.

Over the course of the match, both Radwanska and Kirilenko seemed willing to leave almost everything on the court, while placing even more emphasis on their respective styles of play to gain the upper hand.

As Kirilenko blasted away at the lines in an attempt to strike winners off both her forehand and backhand wing, setting up her shots with a powerful serve - that earned her nine free points from aces by the match's conclusion - Radwanska remained content to stick to her signature, subtle counter-punching style to induce errors.

In the very first point, for instance, the 2008 and 2009 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Radwanska drew the Russian to the net. A rally ensued until the Pole hit a drop-volley winner. The game would ultimately last nine minutes until the Russian held by slicing a delicate drop-volley winner of her own. The drama in the first set, however, would only continue as the windy and rainy conditions kept the players from feeling entirely comfortable on court, or even being able to complete the match outside.

With three breaks in all in the first set, the Radwanska proved a little stronger mentally en route to her attempt at making the semi-final of a major tournament for the first time. Saving seven set points in total, Kirilenko finally relented when a service return of hers floated long for a 7-5 loss.

In the second set, it looked as if Radwanska could potentially run away with the match by securing the early break on another misplaced Kirilenko shot. In the very next game, however, Radwanska struck a rare error of her own to gift the Russian a game for one-all.

The Pole showed signs of nerves and negativity when attempting to break Kirilenko at four-all in the second. After dumping a forehand into the net, Kirilenko’s chances to level the set seemed almost guaranteed. In disgust, Radwanska struck her racket to the ground, hitting her bag, too, on the changeover.

Down 40-30 on Radwanska’s deceptive serve, Kirilenko increased her level of play, securing three errors from the 2005 Junior Wimbledon champion to take the set. Again, the world No.3 vented her anger by snapping her racket on the ground.

After another rain delay, the third set started with two straight breaks of serve. Finding their form, however, both players next held for six games straight, with only one break point chance (for Radwanska), overall.

Striking a forehand winner on her serve at four-all, and at over 150 minutes on court, Kirilenko and her opponent packed up to await their fate at the hands of the schedulers as play was suspended yet again.

At the conclusion of Victoria Azarenka's victory over Tamira Paszek, the players resumed their match and the Russian cemented a quick 5-4 lead as a Radwanska shot sailed long. The match seemed on the former Australia Open quarter-finalist's racket as she brought her opponent to deuce with a selection of big shots that induced errors from the Pole's typically steady game. At 40-all, Radwanska smacked her fifth ace, followed by a forehand passing shot winner to level the match.

"I felt like today was at least 25 hours for me.  It's always difficult," Radwanska said. "It's always tough because you really have to stay focused whole day, going on and off all the time.  It's never easy, especially that it was really long match and very tough one. Finally we switched the court for the indoor court.  Felt so different.  Without rain, without wind, it's really just different tournament. But I'm just very happy that I could win it." 

The focused power of Kirilenko at the re-start of play soon went astray as she attempted to hold for a chance to clinch the win. She struck three errors in the game, which was notably punctuated by a Radwanska reflex passing shot winner hit off an overhead struck directly at her. On the Pole's serve, Kirilenko's nerves continued to be a factor as she committed four errors, including one down match point.

Radwanska faces the German Angelique Kerber for a place in Saturday's final.

"We played a couple times each other," Radwanska said. "Always went three sets, always tough.  Never on grass.  It's just going to be another challenge.  I just hope I can still play my good tennis and we'll see."

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