Serena Williams (Player Profile) will play Agnieszka Radwanska (Player Profile) for the eighth time on Day 2 of the 2013 WTA Championships in Istanbul. The Williams v Radwanska Head to Head stands at 7-0.
Both women will be in action for the second day in a row after mixed fortunes on Tuesday. Predictably, Serena stormed past Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-1, but Radwanska fell 6-4, 6-4 to Petra Kvitova in a somewhat disappointing match.
The Pole has always struggled against Kvitova, and entered their Red Group clash with a 1-5 losing record (the sole win coming when the Czech was ill last year in Istanbul). Yet although Kvitova was having one of her good days, with the sharp lefty serve in full flow and the groundstrokes and volleys pinpoint, Radwanska had her chances, especially towards the end of the second set when an increasingly frustrated Kvitova began to make more unforced errors. Ultimately, though, the woman hailed by fans and pundits for her flair, imagination and daring was simply overpowered by a bigger, stronger player.
The physical differences between Serena and Kerber may be less pronounced, but that didn’t help the German in their round robin meeting. Serena broke at the first opportunity and held on to her lead to wrap up the first set in 34 minutes. The second was even more straightforward: Kerber served consecutive double faults to drop the opening game and held serve only once thereafter.
Even when Serena’s concentration wobbled, leading to a few sprayed balls, she quickly re-established her authority. Although her first serve percentage slipped to 47% in the second set, she made up for it with brilliantly timed forays to the net, ending the day with 13 of 13 net points won. This was a high-profile match at the most elite of events, but as Serena cruised through the final games, it bore more resemblance to a run-of-the-mill first round clash against a WTA journeywoman.
We can rely on Radwanska to make tonight’s encounter more intriguing, but can she do enough to test Serena? The third seed was said to have been very upset after the loss to Kvitova, as it means she will almost certainly have to beat Williams to make the semi-finals in Istanbul. It’s hard enough taking on the American at the best of times, but doing so under pressure makes the task even more difficult.
Only two of the pair’s previous seven matches have been close: the Wimbledon 2012 final and the Toronto semi-final this summer. On those occasions, Radwanska was at her inspired best, varying angles, spin and pace to keep Serena guessing. The other five matches have been routs. In Miami and Beijing this year, the world number one refused to let Radwanska get a foothold in points.
It’s easy to put those defeats down to a mismatch of power, but the added problem for Radwanska is that Serena is just as fast and just as savvy as she is. The American’s tactical awareness and courtcraft have improved considerably over the last couple of seasons, so she can win even when her dynamite A game isn’t working. Bar an ultra-rare meltdown from Serena, its hard to see Radwanska coming through this one.
Prediction: Radwanska will entertain the crowd and frustrate Serena in a close(ish) first set, after which the defending Istanbul champion will coast to another straight sets win.
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