Aggie to square off against Serena in first Major final

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Photo courtesy of ivies.pinger.pl

The Wimbledon center court crowd were treated to two superb performances from the upcoming women’s finalists, strong competition from their vanquished opponents and two matches that were almost mirror opposites regarding pace and style.

WTA tour fan favorite, Aggie Radwanska, came back from 1-3 down in the first set against Angie Kerber, the recent Eastbourne runner-up, to win the next five games and take a one set to love lead in her first major semi-final.

Playing coolly and calmly as you like, as if she had played major semi after semi throughout her career, Aggie served out for the first set confidently, moving forward whenever the opportunity arose and getting her first serve in, even sealing her set point with an ace out wide. Playing better than she ever has on the surface, the former Eastbourne champion sent a message out to whoever would be her final opponent that she could play on grass and would not be a bye in the final as some critics have suggested.

In the second set, serve was held until 2-2 when a Kerber unforced error gave Aggie a break point. In the next point, Kerber had no answer for Aggie’s depth and netted a forehand of a ball that landed at her feet on the baseline to hand Aggie the break.

With her back up against the wall, Kerber went up a gear and began to hit with more pace and aggression. However Aggie’s defense proved impenetrable as she ran down every ball getting her racket on all of them and sending them back for winners. In a hotly contested game, one terrific rally at game point Aggie saw both players tearing around the court with both players even moonballing to stay in the rally. As Aggie’s backhand down the line went out, Kerber raised her arms aloft as if to celebrate not being undone again by the Polish woman’s all court prowess. In the next point Kerber’s pace on her forehands were too much for Aggie earning Kerber a break back point and a chance to get back into the match. Aggie was not to buckle under the pressure and she saved the break point with a deep second serve to Kerber’s body. Continuing to play with confidence, Aggie moved forward on the next point and took the ball out of the air to put away the forehand. On game point, Aggie served out wide and repeatedly hit rally shots to Kerber’s forehand in the middle of the court which led a frustrated Kerber, who could not hit the winner she so wanted and needed, netting a forehand to hand Aggie the game.

In the next game, Aggie piled on the pressure to take it to deuce but a rare error as she came into the mid court saw Kerber gain advantage point which she won with a winning forehand. It was clear that Kerber was not going to fold and Aggie would have to hold serve to move closer to her first major final; a feat she achieved smoothly, serving her next game out to 15. Kerber did not go away though and continued to give a good account of herself, holding easily.

Thus it was the moment of truth for Aggie. Could she keep serving with clever placement and variety and serve her way into the Wimbledon final?

A beautiful opening rally where Aggie asked Kerber’s forehand and backhand question after question only for Kerber’s backhand to finally answer with an adamant yes as the German struck a cross court winner meant it was not going to be easy.But Aggie won the next point by forcing the issue as she moved in. A fluffed return from Kerber followed by a missed forehand from the German and Aggie was match point up. Another error of the backhand from Kerber as Aggie moved in and Aggie was into her first major final.

In a year which has seen Aggie climb to number three in the world(and she will be either 1 or 2 depending on the final result), win Premier titles in Beijing and Miami, Aggie’s first appearance in a major semi-final and now a final were due.

Before the tournament she had been criticised for her ‘pushing’ game and inabilty to beat the very best of the game but she certainly played this match aggressively and has adapted to the grass court well. Neither did she freeze on the big stage. Hardly any errors came off of her racket and it was a performance that bodes well for her chances in the final.

In the final she will meet four time champion Serena Williams who played Vika Azarenka in Serena’s second consecutive contest against one of the new Queens on the block. Once again, Serena proved that though she may not be in her prime, she is still the very best competitor on the big stage. Though Serena’s movement and accuracy may have been compromised by age, her increased years have only served to make her tougher than anyone else in the women’s game as when she knuckles down and serves like she has been, then on grass only the greatest players are going to beat her.

The first set saw a supremely focused Serena serve expertly, as she had done throughout the tournament, with power and precision to take it 6-3.

The level of Serena dropped a little and Vika’s rose as the crowd were treated to a more competitive second set where both women struck the hell out of the ball and Serena roared come on as she broke in the third game of the second set firing a winning return and then fought off a challenge from the Belorussian to hold her serve. In the next Serena service game she saved a break point with an ace. However a backhand hit on the rise mid court was hit out by the American and the break point was won by Azarenka as Serena shanked a backhand off a return from Vika that landed at her feet.
Serena got another chance to break right back though but she netted the forehand return. She got another chance after a hard hitting rally where the two competitors went toe to toe until an error from Vika ended the point. But a forehand error from Serena saw them back at deuce. This time it was Vika whose serve sorted her out as she won the next two points to lead 4-3.

Vika’s serve proved to be as sturdy as Serena’s as the two of them held serve to contest a tiebreak. On match point Serena, she brings Vika in with a drop shot but the subsequent lob was out. 6-6. A netted backhand from Vika and 7-6 with Serena to serve. Serena takes her time. She serves a record breaking 24th ace then pumps her fist, keels over and looks to her box before jumping in the air and waving her arms to the crowd.

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Revved up Murray motors on into the semis

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Photo courtesy of www.ziarelive.ro

David Ferrer, playing in his first Wimbledon quarter-final, was leading Andy Murray (Mandy), making his fourth consecutive appearance at this stage of the tournament, by a set and a break and about to serve for a commanding two sets to love lead.

And it was a lead that few had predicted. True, Ferrer had got the better of Mandy at the same stage of the French Open four weeks ago but that was on clay, and yes, their head to head is even at 5-5, but four of those Ferrer victories had come on Clay while Andy Murray, the superior fast court player, had won all his matches on hard courts. And while the center court is a little slower in the second week, it is still grass and rewards those with the skills to play on this dying surface.

Mandy was the heavy favorite on a surface that rewards his slice and his variety of shot. But Mandy had come out playing his passive pushing worst and Ferrer had come out the more aggressive, ripping into Mandy’s second serve and relentlessly running down every ball.

Then, serving for the set, Ferrer did what Mandy had been pushing for. He played a nervous game and dropped his serve. Ferrer’s mind had done what Mandy had failed to do, beaten him. Ferrer, though bruised, did not buckle completely. The two found themselves in another tiebreak with Murray coming back from a mini break down and finishing the tiebreak with a forehand winner in the middle of the court and a service winner to take the set and then rode the momentum to win the third set 6-4 to grab a two set to one lead.

Seemingly comfortably ahead, Mandy, as he is wont to do when frontrunning, began to play better more attacking tennis, saving break points at 3-4 15-40 with a backhand volley and then shot down a 131mph serve out wide which he followed in to volley the floater. The fans cheered to see him playing so proactively, all too aware, as Andy is too, that only this kind of play is going to see him lift the title.

In the fourth set break, Mandy took charge, hitting a backhand down the line winner, moving forward to put pressure on Ferrer who netted the passing shot, hitting a forehand down the line winner and pounding down three aces to hit his way through to a semi-final where he will play the aggressive and powerful Tsonga against whom he has a 5-1 head to head lead. Nevertheless he needs to assert himself from the beginning against an in-form opponent who if he has an ‘on’ day could blow Mandy away. Mandy has to move forward and serve well, staying close to Tsonga who will serve big and come in, and then take his chances on the return if he is to have any chance of breaking his Wimbledon semi-final duck.

In the other semis, Federer and Novak thrashed Youhzny and Mayer respectively while Tsonga squeezed past Kohlschreiber in four on a day that did little to support Gilles Simon’s comment earlier this tournament that the women did not deserve equal prize money.

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