Placement and power came face to face today on Centre Court when Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na played off for a place in the semi-finals and it was Radwanska's placement that won 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-2 in a match that was almost impossible to predict. Momentum changed throughout as both players let slip chances at key moments.
“That match was really, really good. I think on a really high level,” Radwanska, last year's runner-up, said. ''I think this was the match that we proved, you know, top 10 players are playing really good match. From the first point to the last point it was really great battle. She was really playing very well today. Just so, you know, I'm even double happy I could beat her playing, you know, very good tennis. “
First it was Li who stamped her authority. Four set points in the opening stanza came and went as the No.6 did everything but add a full stop to the end of the set. Much to Li’s disbelief, it was Radwanska who swooped in and finished what she had started. Li will no doubt look back on a missed overhead on one of those set points.
But full credit to Radwanska for hanging in. Renowned for her retrieval abilities, Radwanska simply refused to give up on any point. What would be a winner against most other players, Radwanska would chase down, slap back into play and scurry back to the middle, ready to repeat.
Radwanska repeatedly put Li under pressure through her consistently deep hitting as Li’s accuracy fluctuated with the wind. The Pole’s chasing eventually wore down Li, whose unforced error count was high. Nineteen in the first set were barely offset by the 20 winners that Li struck. Conversely, the less flashy but more reliable Radwanska made just seven unforced errors and hit 12 winners.
A brief rain delay prior to the second set gave both players a chance to think about or re-think their game plan. An early break to Radwanska was erased by Li who appeared to have cast off the doubt that plagued her towards the end of the first set.
Luck was also on Li’s side. Three net cords went her way way much to Radwanska’s disbelief. This time Li was able to close out the second set to level the match.
Radwanska’s renowned fitness was tested by Li’s heavy hitting. So much so that she called the trainer during the break following the completion of the second set. While Radwanska had her right thigh strapped, Li took the opportunity to read some notes that she had in her bag.
With momentum on Li’s side at the beginning of the final set it was a surprise when Radwanska opened by breaking the Li serve. Up a break but not moving as well as she had earlier in the match, Radwanska was desperate to keep her nose in front.
Poor placement on Li’s behalf cost her on more than one occasion as she played right into Radwanska’s hands. A 30-minute rain delay with Radwanska leading 2-0 gave both players a chance to re-group.
On returning it was Li who was striking the ball better but Radwanska continued to defend and anticipate her opponent’s next move, allowing her to stave off multiple break points on her serve.
Another break for Radwanska in the fifth game for a 4-1 lead and the semi-finals were within touching distance. Now it was Li’s turn to defend. In all she saved seven match points as Radwanska struggled to find a way through her defences.
Finally after two hours and 43 minutes, Radwanska raised her arms in the air in victory as a Li backhand floated long.
The win propels Radwanska, the highest seed remaining in the women’s draw, into the sem-finals for the second year in a row. Waiting for her is No.23 seed Sabine Lisicki who easily accounted for Kaia Kanepi earlier in the day.
“[It[ will be good challenge. We know each other since the juniors tournaments, so, you know, is always a good challenge to play someone like Sabine – especially this is a semifinal of a Grand Slam. Well, we going to fight, for sure.”
A finalist here last year, Radwanska believes that this experience will serve her well when she faces Lisicki.
“Being in the final of a Grand Slam, this is very good experience, especially that I'm in the semifinal of the same Grand Slam. So I know how it is, what I have to do, you know, to be in the final again.
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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