Thursday 4 July 2013
Consistency and court craft are the cornerstones of Agnieszka Radwanska's game, and they are attributes that have served her well enough to have reached number two in the rankings a year ago and earned her a place in the ladies' singles final at the 2012 Championships.
However, pace and power are alien to her way of playing and it was the greater strength of Sabine Lisicki that prevailed today in an enthralling semi-final 6-4, 2-6, 9-7.
Even the 43 unforced errors committed by the German could not quite swing the contest Radwanska's way and her deep disappointment at just missing a second successive Wimbledon singles final was clear from the cursory handshake she offered Lisicki at the end.
The 24-year-old Radwanska, the most popular athlete in Poland, knew that she faced someone with a powerful enough game to have knocked out the favourite and world number one, Serena Williams, and that the only power she could offer in return was the power of accuracy and placement.
At one stage, quite dramatically, it seemed this would prove enough, only for Lisicki to prevail in a marathon third set.
When the players took to the court it seemed Radwanska might have been conveyed there by ambulance, since she sported large bandages on both legs above the knee, the culmination of what she called "too many three-set matches" en route to the semi-final and after the German had captured the opening set behind some heavy serving, which peaked at an impressive 122 miles an hour, Radwanska sent for two bags of ice after being broken in the opening game of the second set and applied them to those aching legs at the changeovers.
The ice proved a miracle treatment and one which, for a long spell, looked like being a match-winning one too.
Until that moment she had not been close to breaking the Lisicki serve. Now, she conjured two break points and though the German fought them off with aces, Radwanska earned a third break point and clinched it with a backhand service return winner.
That moment of high celebration for the Polish supporters in the Centre Court audience kick-started an astonishing sequence in which she swept nine of the next ten games as the German blonde went from assurance to near-desperation.
The key game was the fourth in the second set, a game of six deuces, which Radanska won on her third break point after a stroke of luck when Lisicki was confounded by a Polish shot that struck a net post.
So, after Lisicki failed to hold serve at all in that second set, the match was level and while Radwanska cooled her legs under the ice bags the German took a toilet break in an attempt to regroup.
Radwanska went 3-0 up in the decider before the momentum was slowed, and at that point it seemed her combination of dinks, drop shots, lobs and cunningly placed ground strokes, allied to Lisicki's mounting total of unforced errors, might be enough to get her into Saturday's final. However, Lisicki managed to steady a rickety ship to such effect that at 4-5 Radwanska needed to break the German serve to stay in the match.
This she achieved after a long deuce game and at 6-5 she stood two points away from the final, only to be frustrated by another of Lisicki's nine aces.
What proved to be the final turning point of a fiercely contested and enthralling match came in the 15th game when two Polish errors, a lob which went wide and an overhit forehand, handed Lisicki the breakthrough, which left her to serve out for victory.
Afterwards Radwanska acknowledged that she had played well "but I would rather have played badly and won the match," adding, "I had a lot of chances and a couple of easy mistakes cost me the match after I was two points from winning it."
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