Pole Looks Polished: Radwanska Defeats Ivanovic to Reach Quarterfinals

Radwanska lines up a backhand under the Rod Laver lights.

Featured in the Rod Laver Arena night session was world #4 Agnieszka Radwanska, who put her undefeated 2013 record on the line against former #1 Ana Ivanovic.  Their match offered a contrast in styles between the first-strike power of the Serb and the versatility of the Pole, who recorded her fifth straight victory in their rivalry with a generally convincing 6-2 6-4 success.

As expected, Ivanovic looked tentative in the first game on her serve.  She looked uncertain both at the net and the baseline, although she did win an entertaining all-court rally to save a break point before consecutive netted forehands surrendered the opening break.  Holding at love with a backhand down the line, Radwanska kept the early pressure on her opponent, who responded with a love hold highlighted by some fine net play and her own backhand winner.

The latter seemed an encouraging sign for Ana, who normally produces unremarkable tennis from that wing.  Two break points came and went in the next game, created by Radwanska backhand errors and saved by Ivanovic forehand errors on relatively routine balls.  Four games deep, the match had not quite found its rhythm.

Nor did Ivanovic ever find her rhythm for more than a few points at a time in that set.  While she held easily for a second straight time to reach 2-3, Radwanska swept the next three games with clean, consistent tennis designed to exploit the errors leaking from across the net in increasing quantities.  Well-placed first serves extricated her from a tight service game, and she broke Ivanovic when the latter committed an egregious double fault that stemmed in part from her decision to chase wayward ball tosses on both first and second serves.  Serving out the set without trouble, Radwanska continued to capitalize on Ivanovic’s forehand.  Normally her greatest weapon, that shot misfired on point after point, including several dismal misses into the middle of the net.

A forehand sprayed into the doubles alley allowed the fourth seed to start the next set with a service break, which she consolidated as the trajectory of the match stayed firmly on course.  Ivanovic did hold serve in the next game with forehands that finally did find their targets.  Approaching the net successfully, she did what she had struggled to do for most of the first set in taking time away from Radwanska.  That miniature momentum shift trickled into the next game, when she earned three more break points.

Determined not to allow her talented opponent a flicker of hope, Radwanska snuffed out each of the break points with confidence.  Yet Ivanovic did not let her off the hook too easily, creating two more break points.  Remarkably, the Pole outserved the Serb despite the conventional wisdom that she would find herself at a disadvantage in that department.  She saved the last two break points with poise and held her last two service games at love, clinching the match with consecutive aces.

While Ivanovic raised her level distinctly in the second set after the weak start, she could not find the consistency to challenge the fourth seed as too many errors spilled from her forehand in particular.  The Serb also failed to match Radwanska in the mental area of the game, losing the majority of the extended rallies as the Pole predictably outmaneuvered and out-thought her.  Still, she reached the second week for the fifth time in the last six majors, which will further her campaign to rejoin the top 10.

For Radwanska, meanwhile, the victory extended a 13-match winning streak to start the season during which she has not dropped a set.  She next will face Li Na in a quarterfinal that repeats their meeting in Sydney last week, won by Radwanska in Li’s only loss of the year so far.

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