The third seed will take on a surprise semi-finalist in the second singles match of the day at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
Just when some of us thought Agnieszka Radwanska might be stuck in a long-term slump, she does enough to remind us why she’s climbed as high as second in the world rankings. Having failed to beat a top ten player since March, the Pole routed her nemesis Victoria Azarenka for the loss of only four games on Friday night.
Azarenka’s right knee injury gave Radwanska time and space to work her magic. Ordinarily, Aga would have been pressured by the Belarusian’s harder hitting and court control, but with Vika unable to move freely or trust herself when pulled out wide, Radwanska’s changes of pace and direction paid dividends. She played savvy, sensible tennis and kept her cool even when her opponent threatened a revival, wrapping up a 6-2, 6-2 victory in 65 minutes.
Earlier on Friday, Ekaterina Makarova clocked another milestone – a maiden Premier 5 semi-final – when she took care of qualifier Coco Vandeweghe in three sets. Following up her win over Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Makarova was again the steadier player, saving 83% of break points during the 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 win.
Makarova will be confident of extending her streak on Saturday. Although she is ranked well below Radwanska and trails 2-3 in their head-to-head, she won their two most recent – and most high-profile – meetings. The Russian stunned the world number five 6-4, 6-4 at last year’s US Open, and thrashed her 6-3, 6-0 at Wimbledon six weeks ago. On those occasions, Radwanska simply had no answer to Makarova’s aggressive hitting, and stood helpless as her powderpuff second serves were returned with interest.
To win tonight, Radwanska will need to return Makarova’s tricky lefty serve to awkward spots in order to prevent the Russian from landing a killer second strike. She’ll have to step inside the baseline to avoid getting tugged side to side, and she’ll have to target the Makarova forehand judiciously. She undoubtedly has the talent and nous to do all of those things, but will she have the desire, especially when the going gets tough?
Recently – the All England Club loss to Makarova is a prime example – Radwanska has appeared to lose interest in matches when the tide turns agains her. Rather than reach into her bag of tricks and find a creative solution, she has opted to continue playing passively, as though hoping her opponent will beat herself. Will the morale-boosting win over Azarenka give her the impetus to fight for victory over Makarova? Or will we see more of that tight-lipped, petulant gaze that has characterised many of her 2014 defeats?