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What the papers say

Agnieszka Radwanska gets set on Centre Court.
by Clive White
Friday 5 July 2013

James Lawton, of The Independent, is not a big fan of ladies’ tennis, but then, having watched yesterday’s semi-final between Sabine Lisicki and Agnieszka Radwanksa, admitted that there were exceptions.

“Women’s tennis is the anaemic, over-paid version of the men’s game,” he writes. “It’s not supposed to make the blood race. It can never compete with the majesty of a Roger Federer or the electric impact of Novak Djokovic. It is, let’s be honest, taking a ride on the back of a bigger, stronger, more dramatic game.

“Not yesterday, it wasn’t. Yesterday there was only one way of describing the contest which surged and swayed in one direction and then another – one which had Serena’s conqueror powering in serves that went as high as 120mph and then, when frequently demanded, a second serve guaranteed to chasten Andy Murray. It was an onslaught that drew in response the stunning, subtle pace of last year’s finalist Radwanska and so there was no way that you could diminish this riveting semi-final.”

Simon Barnes, of The Times, meanwhile extols the virtues of the loser, Radwanska, and her meticulously tactical game. He writes: “Radwanska plays with such intelligence that they ought to scrub out the tennis court markings and paint the lawn with 64 black and white squares. Radwanska had her – in the immortal words of Brendan Behan – bitched, bollixed and bewildered.”

Barnes continues: “This was marvellous stuff, the best tennis of the championship as a pure contest, not least because styles make fights and these two dovetailed perfectly. It was as if the idea of the occasion had been put together, choreographed, to showcase the possibilities of the sport rather than find a winner.”

Ivan Speck, of the Daily Mail, hears Radwanska’s explanation for why she left the Centre Court so abruptly at the end. “What could I do, just be there and dance?” she said in response to the question of why she hadn’t congratulated her opponent more warmly. “I didn’t feel like it at that point, I would rather play badly and win the match than lose after that one.”

Marion Bartoli’s power naps and other little routines between points are discussed by Alyson Rudd, of The Times, and Alan Fraser in the Daily Mail. Rudd writes: “She had asked her physio to wake her up in case she overslept, but she did not need him. The 2007 runner-up woke before anyone panicked and says she may do the same again when she faces Sabine Lisicki in the final tomorrow. Unbelievable – unless you think of yourself as a moggy, and then it feels quite rational.”

Fraser says in his piece: “Others tend to be less charitable towards her habit of turning her back on her opponent between serves and frantically shadow-swinging her racket. Together, Bartoli and Rufus the Hawk are keeping Wimbledon free of pigeon infestation. There is also a pretty constant flow of jumping, knee bending and fist clenching. When she runs to and from her chair at the breaks she shows a mean Gerald Davies-like side step.”

Kevin Garside, of The Independent, asks the question: “How can a semi-final be so lightly contested at one end of the court and so aggressively at the other? Bartoli is a she-warrior, charging about the court between points. In fact she worked harder between points than in winning them, running on the spot and throwing punches with her racket as if shadow boxing at Gleeson’s.”

Barnes looks at pressure and the pointless use of the word in sport in another of his pieces. “Pressure is seen as a curious dark force that oppresses people in sport,” he writes. “They feel it, or they don’t feel it. They let it get to them, or they don’t. They deal with it, they cope with it, they handle it, or they don’t.

“Murray is under pressure to win today, but so is Janowicz. It’s not easier for him because he’s not British and doesn’t carry the burden of 77 years of history. It’s hard for him because he carries Polish hopes, and all his own hopes for making a career at the top end of the sport. Losing would be devastating for him. He’s under pressure. Murray’s under pressure.”

That said, Mike Dickson, in the Daily Mail, reveals how Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, has imparted a few words of advice to Andy Murray on how to handle pressure, but fails to tells us what it is. “He was more just giving me some advice on how to handle certain pressures and expectations, that sort of thing,” said Murray. “Getting that sort of advice from someone like him is gold dust, so I’m not going to be sharing much of it.”

Nick Bollettieri, in The Independent, has a few words of comfort for Murray in today’s semi-final against Jerzy Janowicz, of Poland, and seems to be suggesting it could come down to three tie-break sets. He writes: “If Murray can maintain his service he should win because when it comes down to tie-breaks the guy with the greater quality usually beats the guy with the bigger serve.”

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