Monday, 26 January 2015

Venus turns back the clock

The fourth round match on the night session on Australia Day between 6th seed Agnieszka Radwanska and 18th seed Venus Williams promised to be a ripper, with both players in sparkling form, Venus already a winner in 2015 in Auckland.

Radwanska has all sorts of shots available to her and has the capacity to craft a point almost before her opponent has swung her racquet to hit.  She doesn't have the brutal power of the Venus serve and forehand but that can only mean some wonderful exchanges throughout the match this evening.

The first game was required only to dust off the cobwebs and finish off the warm up which the girls regarded as a few minutes short.  Radwanska held her serve and after that the tennis began in earnest, with Venus striking her forehand with ominous authority, and showing no weakness on serve which has historically been a problem if she misses enough with her first delivery.

Games were 2-2 and Agnieszka so generous with her donation of ground strokes for winners up to this point - a long competitive set seemed as if it was in the process of being built.

After another hold each with more unforgiving forehands from Williams and some variable slicing and other things from Radwanska Venus struck in the seventh game.  Not that there was anything sudden about the strike - she had six chances to break, easy misses failing to convert the first two, and we experienced twelve deuces.  However, Agnieszka finally agreed to terms and Venus took the break and in return Aga the disappointment.

We blinked and it was Aga serving again - Venus had pulled out two aces and a sweet backhand to extend the lead to 5-3.  

Only five deuces this time but the result the same - Venus nailed the set on the third break point when a crosscourt forehand was too much for Agnieszka to handle. 6-3 to the 7-time major winner.

No one expected the sixth seed to just fade away without a response - what we didn't see coming was the nature of the reply.  After two games (the first another laborious affair, this time with Venus at the line) eventually ended with service holds to either player, Aga began her quest for set two glory.  

Of course it helps if your opponent makes a complete mess of their serve which is what happened in the third game, Venus winning the first point with a forehand and then missing the mark with her next four tries from that side.  Aga was effectively a spectator - a contented one too leading 2-1.

4-1 after a hold of serve and another break - Radwanska was playing to her capacity now, with winners from her backhand and forehand from all over the court, volleying and smashing with confidence and leaving Williams with few answers.

At 1-5 following three more winners and an ace from a smooth but savage Radwanska, Venus looked forward to the likely third set and stood firm to hold serve knowing that she would be at the line first in the decider should Aga win the next game.

And so it was - Radwanska levelled the match with a blistering second set win 6-2.

And as much as the wind changed direction sharply between the first two sets, it was more stark in its reverse as we entered the final set.

After breaking the Venus serve to lead 1-0, all the momentum appeared to be with Polands top tennis star.  However she failed to win another game,  winning a mere two points from her fourteen serves for the set.  Williams played well again but it was a sad end for both Radwanska and the match which had promised such a grandstand finish. 6-3 2-6 6-1 

Venus Williams continued her fine 2015 by entering the quarter finals of a major for the first time in five years.  She will play Madison Keys, 15 years her junior, so at least one American will feature in the semis.

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