The world number one has dropped just 10 games in her first three rounds in Toronto, and has looked more imposing with every match. After showing a few signs of rust against Francesca Schiavone earlier in the week, she dismissed Wimbledon semi-finalist Kirsten Flipkens in under an hour, firing down 10 aces in the process.
On Friday, Magdalena Rybarikova became Serena’s latest victim. The Pole successfully defended her Washington title last week and is in the best form of her life, but she could do little to stop a rampant Serena from running away with their quarter-final match. The American played well within herself to defeat the world number 42 6-1, 6-1 and reach the Rogers Cup semi-finals for the fifth time in her career.
Unsurprisingly, Agnieszka Radwanska had a much tougher time seeing off Sara Errani earlier in the day. The pair’s most recent hard court meeting in Istanbul last year lasted well over three hours and left both players exhausted. While their clash in Toronto wasn’t quite as gruelling, it still featured many long rallies and shifts in momentum. After a first set that saw five breaks of serve for each player, Radwanska dominated the tie-break. Five more breaks followed in the second set, but as the two-hour mark approached, Radwanska stepped up her aggression levels in the final stages to take it 7-5.
The world number four will need to play even more aggressively if she is to have any chance of beating Serena in the semi-finals. In four of their five career meetings, the Pole hasn’t won more than four games; their only closely fought match came in the Wimbledon final in 2012 which Serena won in three sets.
The American is simply a bad match-up for Radwanska: she serves faster, returns harder and defends just as well as she does. Even though Radwanska is one of the most tactically astute players out there, she rarely gets a chance to use her courtcraft against Serena, who puts her on the back foot right from the beginning of points. Radwanska showed a willingness to step up the court at Wimbledon, where she defeated power players such as Tsvetana Pironkova and Li Na. But Serena is more consistent than either of those women, and mentally stronger.
A lot will need to go right for the third seed to pull off the upset. Williams’ level will have to drop a few notches, and Radwanska herself will have to play one of the matches of her life. While neither of those things is impossible, it’s unlikely that they will both happen on the same night.
Expect Serena to take care of business in straight sets and book a place in yet another major final.
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