Miami: Radwanska d. Bartoli

Friday, March 30, 2012 /by

RadwanskaRRThe moon over Miami was the lone source of constant light during tonight's strange semifinal saga. Agnieszka Radwanska pulled the plug on power merchant Marion Bartoli, 6-4, 6-2, in a wild ride to the Sony Ericsson Open final. This match featured a seven-minute injury time-out, a 17-minute power outage, and a steady stream of service breaks.

Radwanska broke Bartoli in all nine of her service games, winning 40 of the 55 points played on her opponent's serve. The seventh-seeded Bartoli stormed out to a 4-0 lead in snapping world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka's 26-match win streak last night, and picked up where she left off with a slick drop shot-lob combination to convert her fifth break point, capping an 18-point, nine-minute opening game to break.

It took six games and 36 minutes of play for the first hold. Radwanska dropped to her knees, absorbing the pace of a Bartoli blast, then slid a slice pass up the line for game point. When Bartoli scattered a return wide, Radwanska had the rare hold and a 4-3 advantage. Radwanska entered this match with a 6-0 career edge over the former Wimbledon finalist, effectively exploiting the limitations of Bartoli's reach by stretching her with angles. Radwanska is quicker around the court, plays well off power, and can change spins and speeds, denying Bartoli the pace she craves.

Showing her soft hands, Radwanska jerked Bartoli forward forward for a drop shot, then sent her scurrying back to the baseline for a lob, eventually breaking for the fourth straight time for a 5-3 lead. The game took a toll on the Frenchwoman. In between points, Bartoli bent over and clutched her left hip, paced in a stilted shuffle, and cast concerned glances at her father and coach, Dr. Walter Bartoli. Still, she played on, and when Radwanska sprayed a forehand down the line wide, Bartoli broke for 4-5, but wasn't exactly celebrating. She hobbled to the sideline, called for the trainer, and limped off for treatment of a strained left hip at the 53-minute mark.

Returning to the court with her left thigh taped, Bartoli looked to be in pain, but her lateral movement did not appear compromised. Radwanska, who suggested Azarenka exaggerated an ankle injury in her Doha victory over the Pole last month, greeted her opponent's return by breaking at love to seize the 62-minute first set—collecting her 13th straight set against Bartoli.

The second set followed a similar script, with Bartoli appearing on the verge of retiring a few times, only to stand her ground and continue to swing away. Radwanska broke at love for a 4-2 lead then the lights went out, literally, stopping play for 17  minutes. When play resumed, Radwanska ran off eight of the last 12 points, closing a two hour, two-minute soap opera on Bartoli's 35th error of the evening.

The first-time Miami finalist raised her 2012 record to 25-4, with all four losses coming to Azarenka. Radwanska will try to flip the script against second-seeded Maria Sharapova, who has won seven of eight meetings with the clever counter-puncher.

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