agnieska radwanska

Azarenka and Williams set up final clash at the Madrid Open

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Mutua Madrid Open, Madrid – World No.1 Victoria Azarenka recorded her sixth victory this year against Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-4 to progress to her sixth final this year where she will meet Serena Williams after she defeated qualifier Lucie Hradecka 7-6, 6-0.

The Belarusian has reached the final for the second year running, which saw her miss out on the title last year to Petra Kvitova and will be looking to go one step further tomorrow and lift the title for the first time and record her 7th title victory this year.

During her 6-2 6-4 defeat over Agnieszka Radwanska, the 22 year old struck 29 winners and looked confident during her encounter on the Manolo Santana court.  She was able to dominate rallies and had great movement around the court, comfortably covering all areas. The Australian Open champion was out on court for only 79 minutes and sealed the match with a drop shot on her second match point.

During the press conference Victoria Azarenka was pleased with her performance and said that she feels she has been performing well. With the Rome Masters 1000 Series just around the corner Azarenka was informed of her draw and that she has another potential clash with the Agnieszka Radwanska, much to the horror of the world No.1 she said she didn’t want to know, as she never likes to know her draw in advance.

She had a special request for the journalists in the press room:

“Put it in the headline: I DON’T READ THE DRAW!”

In the clash she has set up with Serena Williams, she is aware that she will be a tough opponent, but the times that she had played against her before, she was ‘much younger.’

“She is one of the best players in the world, one of the toughest to play against. It is the first time I play her on clay.”

The second semi final of the day saw American Serena Williams taken to a tie-break in the first set of her game against Czech qualifier and world No.105 Lucie Hradecka.

The first set proved to be challenging for the world no.9 as they both went toe-to-toe during their rallies and big serves were fired on court. Williams eventually took the first set on her third set point.

The second set was less competitive as the former world No.1 marched through the games, breaking Hradecka three times for a convincing 7-6 (7-5) 6-0 victory.
I informed Serena Williams during her press conference that she will now be world No.6 and with her arms raised she threw her head back and said:

“Get out! Yessss! I have reached my goal. I didn’t think I’d reach it. I’ve been working really hard but I don’t want to stop at No.6 obviously, I want to keep continuing on to do better.”

Going into the final tomorrow Serena feels she has ‘nothing to lose’ and will give it everything out there to win.

Lisa-Marie Burrows is currently in Madrid covering the Mutua Madrid Open and will be at the Rome Masters next week. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.

BNP Paribas Open 3.14.12

I finally made it to the practice courts today. There was a little more mystery today as to who would be practicing when because the screens showing the practice sessions were not giving complete information. It was nice, however, to get to stumble upon Rafael Nadal practicing without every seat around the courts filled an hour in advance. It reminded me of the tournament five years ago when they didn’t announce the practice schedule.

My morning started out with Feliciano Lopez, Sam Stosur, Ana Ivanovic practicing. Petra Kvitova was also practicing with Yanina Wickmayer. It was a pretty intimate feel on court as no one was really watching them. Richard Gasquet and Grigor Dimitrov were on a practice court next to Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Julien Benneteau. Again, the malfunctioning practice schedule really helped out as the courts were fairly empty.

To my surprise, forty minutes after play began, Novak Djokovic was already a set up on Pablo Andujar. To go from a 0-6 thumping to a 7-6 victory in the second set was quite impressive from Andujar. Nevertheless, Djokovic showed why he’s the number one player in the world, winning the third set.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal had a quieter practice session at least until Djokovic won. Isner made quick work of Matthew Ebden while Sam Querry warmed up for their match later that day. Gael Monfils was also on court playing four-square soccer while Gasquet played actual soccer on the field. The entire French contingent would have a soccer showdown later in the evening on the field.

Victoria Azarenka took apart Agnieska Radwanska. Rafael Nadal also had a strong match against Alexandr Dolgopolov. I expected Dolgopolov to give Nadal more trouble, but Rafael held pretty strong as Alexandr made many unforced errors.

Sam Querry and John Isner went the distance Richard Gasquet and Paul Hanley and come out with a win as Roger Federer went a set down to Thomaz Bellucci. Federer held back and won as did Gilles Simon, who had a hard fought victory against Ryan Harrison. The score line in the third set didn’t do justice to how hard Harrison fought, but Simon deserved the victory.

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It’s Sam Stosur versus Serena Williams in the finals of the Rogers Cup 2011

Agnieska Radwanska’s attempt to go on a Novak Djokovic-like winning streak came to an end today at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. After nine consecutive victories she was defeated today by 10th seeded Samantha Stosur 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.

Broken three times in the first set it was a tough-go for Radwanska initially. She had not dropped a set thus far in the tournament and until today had looked like she was carrying over her momentum from her tournament win in Carlsbad, California from last week. Instead, she appeared to be sluggish today on the court against Stosur.

In the second set, the pressure got to Stosur, as it often does, when serving at 5-6. She would lose all four points on her serve in that game, culminating with a double fault to hand the set over to her Polish opponent.

In the third set Stosur would get the chance she needed to pull away. Radwanska got down 0-40 when serving at 2-2. The Australian would capitalize on the second break chance she got to take a 3-2 lead. After holding her own serve with ease, Stosur would then break Radwanska again to increase the margin by a score of 5-2 and get a chance to serve for the match.

There were no nerves this time around as Stosur would close out Radwanska without any difficulty. She advances now to her second WTA final of the year and her first on hard-courts. The last time Stosur won a title was in April 2010.

In the night match, Serena Williams came through in fine style as she defeated Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-3 to advance to play Stosur in the Rogers Cup final.

Williams played a remarkably clean game for someone who is only playing in her fourth tournament back after missing a year from the WTA Tour. There are very few players, man or woman, who could accomplish such a quick return to the top of the game.

Azarenka was coming in playing some terrific tennis as she had only dropped six games through three matches in the tournament. While she started strong in the opening few games against Williams, she could not sustain the same level of play tonight that we have seen all week long.

Williams broke to go up 4-2, yet Azarenka was able to promptly break her right back. Instead of then building on that momentum, the fourth ranked player from Belarus dropped her serve again to allow Serena to serve for the first set at 5-3. The American won all four points on her serve in that important game and took the opening frame 6-3 with an ace.

In the second set Azarenka was never able to mount a real challenge and could not break Serena’s serve. She would double fault at 3-3, 15-40 to give Serena the break she would need to move on towards victory.

While Azarenka has many great skills on the tennis court, her soft second serve was far too easy for Williams to pounce on tonight.

The final score was 6-3, 6-3, which was a cleaner victory than many expected in this match-up. Williams was happy with the progress she has been making here this week yet feels she still has another gear to reach. Just what the rest of the tour wanted to hear, right?

“I feel like…I still can do a little better,” Serena said. “But overall, I’m almost maybe where I was almost (before the time off), but I want to exceed that level.

Looking forward to the final against Stosur, Williams had the following assessment:

“Well, the last time we played, she got the best of me. It was an intense match, and she played really well. So being ranked 10th in the world…I think that, you know, she definitely has an opportunity to take it all. She’s been playing well. I think this court really suits her game. We’ll see. I have nothing to lose, and I’m happy to have gotten this far. Hopefully if I take another title, that would be great. If not, you know, hey, there’s next week.”

Despite holding only a 3-2 record against Stosur, the way she is playing right now, it is hard to imagine Serena losing tomorrow. With her stellar play of late, coupled with Stosur’s lackluster 2-8 record in WTA finals, expect Williams to win her second tournament in-a-row and head towards the U.S. Open as the definitive favorite.

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Serena Williams takes hard fought victory, Radwanska wins versus Petkovic while Stosur edges Vinci – A Rogers Cup quarterfinals wrap up

With both the men’s and women’s tournaments running simultaneously in Canada this year, members of the media had to make some big decisions about how to cover this virtually combined event for the first time.

I had planned ahead of time to do the first half in Montreal watching the men and then to transition to Toronto to catch the women finish things off and also take-in the Legends tournament with Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Jim Courier and John McEnroe. I just arrived in Toronto today in time to see the four quarter-final matches and it took a few matches before the level of play picked-up.

Sam Stosur took out surprise quarter-finalist Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-4, 6-1 in the opening match of the day. It was the end of a good run by Vinci who knocked off some serious competition in Yanina Wickmayer, Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic one after another. Vinci’s loss brings an end to the blog she was keeping while here in Toronto.

In the second match of the day, fourth seeded Victoria Azarenka had no trouble in dispatching qualifier Galina Voskoboeva with ease by a score of 6-1, 6-2. Azarenka was doing her best impression as the tournament favorite. She raced out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back. Whatever Voskoboeva had going for her they day before against Maria Sharapova was no longer in effect. She looked like a shell of what she brought on court Thursday.

In a mid-afternoon match, 11th seed Andrea Petkovic took on 13th seed Agnieska Radwanska. The pair played a semi-final match last week in Carlsbad where Radwanska prevailed in three sets. Despite bringing more fire-power onto the court, Petkovic made a few too many unforced errors while Radwanska played a very consistent and balanced game. The lack of power in her game did nothing to prevent her from prolonging the rallies and waiting forPetkovic to make a mistake. Radwanksa would win by a routine 6-3, 6-4 final score. She has now won 9 consecutive matches and joked on court after the match that she was trying to emulate Novak Djokovic’s streak from earlier in the year.

Petkovic seemed pretty relaxed after the match and was upbeat with the media in her press conference. Despite the fact that she is now 0-4 against Radwanska in her career she had the following to say:

“Well, actually, I really enjoy playing her, because I always think it’s a good match to watch for the audience.”

In assessing her strategy Petkovic said that, “…today I just felt like, I don’t know, I needed to overpower her, which was the wrong approach.”

Radwanska meanwhile just seems content to approach the top ten but doesn’t strike me as having the killer-instinct necessary to actually contend for a Grand Slam championship.

In the evening match Serena Williams was up against Lucie Safarova. Tennis fans were finally treated to some drama in this one as the match would go the distance. From the get-go it was apparent that Safarova was not simply going to roll-over or submit to nerves as some other Serena opponents have done this week. See Bondarenko, Alona for evidence of the above. Safarova played with tons of confidence and would break to go up 4-3. Later, she easily held her final service game of the first set at love to take it 6-4.

Serena refused to quit, which should come as no surprise. Her game began to find the mark and she started to find some incredible angles on the court. Safarova was still giving it her all and both players applauded each other on more than one occasion. The display of sportsmanship was appreciated by the Toronto crowd.

Serena would break to go up 3-1 and never looked back. She would take the second set as well as the third to win the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

You gotta hand it to the American, she has the drive of a true champion. When asked if she was exceeding her expectations so far during her come-back she did not hesitate to respond, “I was hoping to win Wimbledon, so no, I’m not exceeding my expectations.”

She was in a pretty positive mood overall and joked with the media on several topics including her fitness level: “I’m still not super fit, because I always have cream sodas at night.” And also her thoughts on turning 30 in September: “No, Baby, I’m 26. I’m turning 27 this year.”

The semi-finals are now set for Saturday. Sam Stosur will first take-on Agnieska Radwanska in the daytime match. At night, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka will meet. The winner of the late match won’t have as much time to recover for Sunday, but which ever player wins between those two will certainly be considered the favorite.

Legends Michael Chang and John McEnroe will meet before the first semi and Andre Agassi will face Jim Courier after the second one. A great day of tennis is on deck. Stay tuned for more coverage here at Tennis Grandstand.

Photos credit by © Bob McIntyre

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