Bashing the WTA rankings has become a popular pastime for the media and fans over the past few years. All of these players, ranked so highly – even becoming No.1 – without any real success at the Grand Slam tournaments? Preposterous!
Well, Agnieszka Radwanska’s trip to the final at Wimbledon will help to quell some of that criticism. The world No.3 came into this year’s Championships with the unfortunate distinction of being the only woman in the top 15 never to have reached a major semi-final. But thanks to her gritty three-set win over Maria Kirilenko in the quarter-finals and her masterful display in her semi-final against Angelique Kerber, she erased that statistic and is now poised to create history.
The 23-year-old would become the first Polish player of either sex to win a Grand Slam title, and the first to rise to world No.1. She is guaranteed to reach No.2 regardless of how she performs in the final on Saturday.
“I was the first (Polish) player who win in a semi-final for many years, so I think this is already a big success. And now here in the final, so it's even bigger. For sure this tournament is already one of the big part of tennis history in Poland. I'm happy to be part of that,” she said.
Her improved ranking is now justified by a strong Grand Slam performance. Prior to Wimbledon 2012, Radwanska’s best results at a major were five quarter-final appearances. But in the past 12 months, the Pole has been threatening to break through. It began in the Asian swing of late 2011, where, ranked outside the top 10, Radwanska won the two Premier events in Tokyo and Beijing. She carried her form into 2012, winning in Dubai and then claiming the biggest title of her career at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, capped off with a win in the final against Maria Sharapova.
Yet a theme emerging during this notable run has been her lack of matches against the very top players. And when she does face them, the results aren’t pretty. She has a combined 5-21 against fellow top-four members Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova – including a disastrous 0-6 against Azarenka this season – and against women’s greats Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters, she’s a collective 3-9.
Serena is her opponent in the final on Saturday, and although they haven’t met for four years, Serena beat her 6-4, 6-0 the last time, in the 2008 Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Despite Radwanska making notable improvements to her game since then, it’s hard to see her defeating the mighty Serena. Radwanska has produced some pretty good stats throughout the Wimbledon fortnight but hasn’t come up against anyone with the credentials or the serving or baseline firepower of Serena. While Serena has had to come through Grand Slam heavyweights Kvitova and Azarenka to reach this stage, Radwanska’s path to the final has been soft.
“Serena is just great champion. When she's on fire, I really don't want her on my part of the draw. That's for sure,” the Pole admitted.
Complicating matters further is Radwanska’s health. Following her semi-final win over Kerber, she had to end her press conference due to a coughing fit, and was unable to complete her scheduled media conference on Friday. “Unfortunately I have picked up an upper respiratory illness, which is affecting my nose and throat. I have been playing a lot of matches here in the rain and cold wind, and I haven’t been well for a few days,” she revealed.
“The most important thing is that I’m feeling good on the court and playing some good tennis, despite not being able to talk much away from the court.”
All of these factors add up to a situation where Radwanska has no pressure on her shoulders when she takes to the court in her first Grand Slam final. It’s not an impossible task as Sharapova won her first career major final in 2004, beating Serena in straight sets and Sam Stosur repeated that feat over Serena in the 2011 US Open final.
“I think this is the best two weeks of my career, playing my first Grand Slam final and achieving a career-high ranking no matter the outcome,” Radwanska said.
“She’s playing amazing tennis at the moment. I don’t really have much to lose, so I’m going to try my best and we’ll see.''
Radwanska: tournament stats
Aces / Double Faults
First serves in
First / second serve points won
68% / 52%
Service games won
Fastest serve / average first serve speed
106 mph / 94 mph
Returns in play
Break points won
FH winners / BH winners / overall winners
44 /22 / 109
Total net points won
Total court time
QF v Kirilenko – 2:50
Radwanska: road to the final
7-5, 4-6, 7-5
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