The grass court phenomenon, Alison Riske, who’s won all of her WTA matches on turf, upset Urszula Radwanska 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to her first Grand Slam third round. Riske struck 43 winners to 16 for the younger Radwanska sister in a match that never looked routine for either player.
To start, the wild card immediately went up 30-0 on Radwanska’s serve before the errors set in. The bigger-hitting Radwanska, albeit less successful than sister Agnieszka, took the first set over Riske with a display of greater consistency.
Striking freely however, Riske, a semi-finalist at Birmingham earlier this year, was the first player to take the lead in the opening set.
She converted on a forehand down the line, but appeared to let nerves get the best of her.
After a long inhale and exhale of breath during the changeover, Riske faced a break point of her own as a result of a Radwanska cross-court volley winner. A missed Riske volley levelled the match at 2-2 and the Pole continued to be the stronger player for the rest of the set.
At first nervy, Radwanska won three consecutive points up 5-4 and on serve to close out the rollercoaster ride first set with a fist pump.
To begin the second, a forehand winner from midcourt took the first game for Radwanska, who seemed entirely comfortable on the surface on which she won the Junior event in 2007.
A tough battle ensued early in the second set when at a game apiece Radwanska failed to fend off Riske’s heavy shots. The Pole faced break points and she donated the game when her forehand floated.
Riske stayed strong throughout the set in a turnaround of form to maintain her lead throughout. Punctuated by a loud, “C’mon!” the American raced to a 5-3 lead before rain momentarily halted play.
But it wouldn’t be deemed enough to stop the match, nor from Riske continuing where she left off – in dominating fashion.
She took a 15-40 lead on Radwanska’s serve, breaking to take the match to three sets as the Pole powered a forehand wide in one hour and 20 minutes.
Radwanska wouldn’t fare much better to start the third set. She struggled to cope with Riske’s increased precision and aggressive baseline game, losing four straight points to go down 1-0.
Although she and Riske would successfully hold serve, Radwanska faced two more break points in her service game at 1-2 down. The Pole erased both, the later with a cross-court backhand winner. It’d be the Polish player with a break point opportunity of her own in the next game, which she’d convert after jamming Riske with a lethal cross-court backhand that her opponent failed to block back.
The breaks of serve continued, signifying streaky play from both players as Riske rewarded herself with one on the heels of a devastating backhand and an out ball by Radwanska for 3-3.
Fast forward to 4-4 and Radwanska gave herself the opportunity to cement herself on top at 15-40 on Riske’s shaky service game. That would be erased by a Riske smash, followed by another missed opportunity due to a net cord winner. Radwanska’s reaction? A screech to the skies in disbelief at her lack of luck.
Serving for a chance to stay in the match, Radwanska failed to fend off Riske’s fired-up form. A forehand down the line set up the American’s first match point and prompted a primal, “C’mon!” That, however, proved to be uttered a little too soon as she failed to handle a surprising serve down the middle from Radwanska.
On her third match point, which she earned by carving out a backhand passing shot, Riske clinched the match in two hours and 21 minutes.
Riske told reporters about her self-confidence on the surface where she’s been most successful in the past. “Yeah, I just feel like the grass suits my game,” she said. “I feel comfortable on it. I love moving forward, being aggressive.”
According to Riske after the match, “It took a few match points. I told myself if I was going to lose that last game [with] her serving I was going to do did it aggressive.”
She added, “So I went for a few returns; no luck on them. Ultimately it worked out in the end.”
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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