Now That They Are Gone
March 28, 2012 -- Last night on Stadium Court Caroline Wozniacki upset the apple cart. For the first time in her career she defeated Serena Williams. Today, Caroline's friend Agnieszka Radwanska sent the sentimental favorite, Venus Williams, home. Did you hear the collective sigh from the women's draw?
When the announcement was made that both Williams sisters would present arms at the Sony Ericsson Open this spring, fans and media perked up. The biggest names in women's tennis were making a return to the game, Venus for the first time since the U. S. Open and Serena since Fed Cup in the fall.
Now that they have come and gone, what will shake out for the women?
Caroline Wozniacki was pleased with her performance last night. She said she served well and fought hard. She also has her father and coach, Piotr, to thank for what was little noticed ... saving his daughter from defeat.
Serena was a mess of mistakes in the first set. Her balls didn't have enough loft and frequently caught the net. But in the second she shifted gears, and found her rhythm. Wozniacki was up 5/2, but the next two games went to Serena. Either Sunshine would take the reins or sink in similar fashion as did Dominica Cilbukova, after she muffed her opportunities against Victoria Azarenka.
So at the changeover at 5/4 Wozniacki, she waved for her dad/coach, which was a smart move. Caroline sensed her aggressive strategy slipping away. She had fallen into the familiar and comfortable patterns -- retrieving and keeping the ball in play. She relied too much on her down-the-line backhand, which didn't move Serena around the court.
Caroline said her dad suggested she swing out, go for it ... don't hold back, in her post-match interview. And she did, changing the direction of the ball to crosscourt and closing out the win on the first match point.
Asked about a straight sets win over Serena, Caroline said, "Well it definitely give you confidence. Hard work always pays off. I'm just excited I can always improve my game."
Wozniacki did admit that the match was 'the match of the year for her.'
And what about Venus ... she couldn't.
"I didn't have a good day," Venus began. "Unfortunately, I just couldn't press the issue. I don't feel like she did anything special. I just couldn't. If I'm not feeling my best, then it becomes mental and I have to fight, and you have to fight and fight and fight. Today I just didn't conquer it mentally. I have to be there mentally more than the next player."
Radwanska, the #5 player in the world and #5 seed, had a darn good day. She defeated Venus for the second time in their seven meetings. The win -- 6/4 6/1 -- is even more daunting when you consider the differences in their styles.
Venus epitomizes the power game. Radwanska is more like Martina Hingis, tactical and smart, quick and consistent.
Venus set up points well, at times, but hits balls out instead of converting. Radwanska continued to return shots that she'd decelerated; she takes the ball early but robs the shot of power by using a slower racquet head speed. Technique is key when hitting slower balls. Since Venus's technique was off, like the timing, then her powerful swings were useless and shots sailed long, wide ... anywhere but in.
"I think I was playing really well today, from the beginning to the end, and pretty consistent," Radwanska, who hails from Krakow, Poland, said. "I think everything was working. I was also focused on my serve just and trying to break her. But I really had to play very well today to beat her."
Agnieszka, which is pronounced Ag-kneesh-ka, is a slight woman compared to the six-foot-two Williams. Radwanska is five-eight and turned pro in 2005, a decade after Venus popped on the scene. Radwanska reached the top ten for the first time in 2008, which is an astronomically fast rise in the rankings. She has accrued 8 career singles titles, one this year in Dubai.
This is the first time Radwanska has advanced to the semifinals in Miami.
The big news in women's tennis records this year has circled around world number one, Victoria Azarenka. Since winning the Australian Open, the Belarusian is 27-0. But Radwanska's record should get some respect, too. She is 24-4, the four losses all coming across the net from none other than 'Vika' Azarenka.
Radwanska will be faced with another encounter against Vika in the semifinals, unless Marion Bartoli defeats the streaking defending Miami champion.