If you ever needed a clear example of how best to describe Agnieszka Radwanksa’s game, you couldn’t do any better then by showing highlights of her 6-4, 6-2 win over Daniela Hantuchova in the semifinals of the Mercury Insurance Open. Despite a good fight from Hantuchova, especially at the very end of the second set where she saved seven match points, it was Radwanska and her speedy ability to get every ball that was the main factor tonight. Radwanska now enters her first final of the year and is poised to become a darkhorse favorite for this year’s U.S. Open.
The match rested upon Hantuchova, a steady player with fine net skills, to be able to balance going for winners versus hanging with Radwanska on the baseline. However, in the first set, Hantuchova battled holding her serve in each of her service games while at the same time having to deal with Radwanksa running down apparent winners from each corner and up at net. Hantuchova double faulted to give Radwanska a 5-3 lead allowing her to serve out the set at 6-4.
The opening game of the second set showed off Radwanska at her best. Hantuchova hit what looked like a perfect drop shot only to see Radwanska race up to net to hit an even better drop shot winner of her own. Both women traded breaks early and for a moment it looked like Hantuchova had found the range on her groundstrokes to hit winners when needed. But her serving, especially her second serve, let the Slovakian down as she lost serve again. Hantuchova would hit decent returns on Radwanska’s service games but they weren’t enough to force the issue as Radwanska cruised to a 5-1 lead.
But Hantuchova wasn’t done. Serving down 1-5, Hantuchova saved seven match points during an eleven deuce game that saw both women hit outright winners and clever drop shots at key moments to try and outwit the other. Finally, at the end of the almost 20 minute game, Hantuchova hit a 101 mph first serve that started off a baseline rally that ended with Radwanska netting a forehand giving Hantuchova the game and perhaps a personal victory to cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd. But Hantuchova’s moment of glory was short-lived as Radwanska finally closed it out on her eighth match point when she hit a serve wide to Hantuchova’s forehand that Hantuchova couldn’t handle.
When asked why she’s been playing well all week, Radwanska said, “I was practicing a lot in Poland before I came here and I’ve been feeling good and everything’s been working so I’m hoping for one more.”
Radwanska now faces Svetlana Kuznetsova in the finals and although she is 3-6 lifetime versus the Russian, one figures that Kuznetsova will have to overpower the speedy Radwanksa to win the title. Radwanska when asked about her chances against Kuznetsova said, “I have to play a hundred percent of my game because she is just too good to play any worse so I will try.”