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Smile lines Kerber's face even in defeat

Angelique Kerber in her losing semi-final against Agnieszka Radwanska.
by Ron Atkin
Thursday 5 July 2012

Even defeat in a Wimbledon semi-final cannot erase that ready Angelique Kerber smile. After her 6-3, 6-4 defeat by Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska she admitted, "Sure, I'm a little bit disappointed but she played very well today. I did my best but she was better. I lost today against a very good player. But actually it was a great tournament for me. I got to the semis at Wimbledon, I gave everything I could. So it's okay".

It could have been even more than okay if the 24-year-old blonde left-hander from Kiel had been able to build on the excellent start she made to her Ladies' Singles semi-final on a sun-bathed Centre Court, when her heavily top-spun forehand inflicted distress on Radwanska and brought the German a break of serve in the third game. Her own service was in excellent shape, too, as she won seven consecutive points on it before conceding the first point against serve, a backhand into the net.

With a 3-1 lead Kerber's hopes of a place in Saturday's final looked bright, but that turned out to be virtually the best moment of the match for her. Radwanska had already stretched her with some excellent deep serving and her ability to strike those serves at an average of 10 miles an hour faster than Kerber's best.

And once she got the timing right on her ground-strokes Radwanska profited enormously from her uncanny ability to hit the lines on what seemed a regular basis. From that 3-1 high point Kerber did not win another game in a first set, which lasted 29 minutes.

She was broken back to 3-3 and put on the back foot at first by an outrageously lucky net cord from the Pole, which bounced on top of the tape and dropped dead on the German's side of the net. But she was undone when that trusty forehand misfired and sent an easy shot into the netting.

Kerber's last opportunity came on a break point in the seventh game but again her forehand was found wanting when it came to accuracy. More forehand errors cost Kerber another break of serve, after which Radwanska served out the set impressively, rounding it off with an ace. As Kerber noted ruefully, "She was not making many mistakes".

There remained hopes among the German supporters that Kerber might manage to pull things round, and she opened the second set as brightly on serve as she had done in the first, winning two service games at a cost of one point, but when the collapse came it was from a familiar source. That crunching forehand, her best points winner, was also producing costly errors at crucial moments and once she dumped a forehand into the net to drop serve for the third time in the match and fall 2-3 behind, a realisation that this was not going to be her day appeared to set it.

She continued to combat the Pole's superior tennis as best she could, once or twice raising her arms in triumph after coming out on top in punishing rallies. But all Radwanska needed to do to clinch her first Grand Slam final appearance was to hold serve, which she did comfortably enough.

"My plan was to play aggressive tennis but she moved very well and did not make many mistakes, so it was tough for me to play consistently and make winners," Kerber said. "I was maybe one or two steps slower today. I think that made the difference."

Asked to assess Radwanska's chances against Serena Williams in the final, Kerber said, "If she plays like she did today I think she has a good chance ".

But Kerber will take with her some happy memories of the 2012 Championships, none more than the first conversation she had with her legendary compatriot Steffi Graf. "She told me to go out there, to have fun and to enjoy it," she said. And that is what Angelique Kerber did – with a smile.

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