Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
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Agnieszka Radwanska’s disappointing season may just be turning around at Wimbledon 2017. Having saved two match points in the second round, she came back from a set behind against Timea Bacsinszky to take her place in the last 16 here for the sixth successive year.
Playing on her lowest seeding – No.9 – at a Slam in almost two years, the 2012 runner-up had fallen to the Swiss in both their previous meetings. But with Bacsinszky increasingly hobbled by a left thigh strain, the former world No.2 came through on the Centre Court 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and nine minutes.
She will face Svetlana Kuznetsova for a place in the quarter-finals, an old foe who Radwanska has beaten just four times in 17 previous meetings, and just once in their last ten, dating back eight years.
“I don’t know if the third set would have been closer without Timea’s injury,” said Radwanska. “I was feeling better and better. In the first set I had a lot of chances, pretty much on every game, and just slipped away.
“Tennis is tougher now in the early rounds than it was when I started. Back then it was easy. It was like, you don’t have to play 100 per cent and you’re going to win. Now you have to play at 100 per cent or else you’re in big trouble.”
The Pole spent most of the clay season on the sidelines with a foot injury, lost her only grass warm-up match in Eastbourne to Lauren Davis, and before this Wimbledon had won consecutive Tour matches just once since January. But her two previous career defeats to Bacsinszky both came on hard courts, and she has always felt more at home on the grass than her opponent.
This was the sole match from the top half of the women’s draw where the seedings followed the predicted path, and the opening four service games were a perfect mirror – in each case the server was 0-40 down, levelled for deuce, and was then broken, after which each held. Long rallies of 20-plus strokes featured in these early stages. Radwanska is not a player to bludgeon opponents into submission, with her subtle craft all about building sequences of strokes, looking for angles and constructing a point until an opening arrives. But in this opener she was simply out-hit.
As the set developed, her main problem was that she was making too many errors by comparison with winners, the balance standing at minus four. This difficulty was exacerbated by the fact that Bacsinszky was reeling off the winners not only from her beloved backhand but also her far less favoured forehand, with her own errors-to-mistakes ratio four to the good. It was obvious that this state of affairs would take its toll, and once the Swiss No.19 seed broke for 4-2, she was firmly in charge.
Moreover, when she held authoritatively to love at the start of the second set to complete a streak of three games, it looked like all the momentum was with her. But while Radwanska was being pushed to repeated deuces on her own serve, she nonetheless pierced Bacsinszky’s defences to break for 2-1. The Pole’s point-by-point patience was almost palpable, and it was a reminder of her fortitude in that marathon second round triumph over Christina McHale.
At 3-4 in the second, the Swiss had the trainer on court, but it was only for some routine-looking taping to her right ankle. Meanwhile, with Radwanska carefully avoiding delivery of the ball to Bacsinszky’s potentially lethal backhand, the Swiss could not find a way to bridge the gap… and at the end-of-set changeover the trainer returned, this time to tend to her left thigh during a medical timeout.
Resuming after almost eight minutes with her thigh heavily strapped, Bacsinszky fought off break point in a 27-shot rally, the longest of the match. But Radwanska was using slice with cunning, and a second opportunity found Bacsinszky wanting.
The Swiss was berating herself loudly, having more problems than ever with overheads, which even in the first set had not been her forte. She dodged the ignominy of a “bagel” only when Radwanska was serving for the match, and fended off two match points in the next game. But of all the strokes on which to concede the win, it was a wild backhand from Bacsinszky which sealed her opponent’s win.