Australian Open: Radwanska d. Ivanovic

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MELBOURNE—Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Ana Ivanovic was not just a contrast of styles, but one of emotional approaches to the sport as well. On the one side you had Aga’s absorbent game and even-keel demeanor. On the other was Ana’s determined, sometimes reckless aggression and brittle bearing. From those descriptions, it was easy understand why Radwanska had won their last four encounters, and why she would go on to make it a fifth tonight in mostly routine fashion, 6-2, 6-4.

As is usually the case, Radwanska, the clever retriever with the good hands and every shot in the book, was able to play her game and force her opponent to adjust. Longer rallies favored her, which meant that Ivanovic had to take chances. Ivanovic pulled the trigger with her forehand whenever she could, for better and worse. She finished with 35 winners and 34 unforced errors, and converted 15 of 21 points at the net. But it was Radwanska’s tidily miniscule 14 winners and four unforced errors that won the day. She was faster, steadier, and, as always, more resourceful when she had to improvise. Aga even topped herself by slinging up a towering lob on the run that appeared to drop out of the sky a foot inside the baseline. When Ivanovic saw it land, she shook her head in frustration as she slapped miserably at the ball. She knew she had no chance.

All of that was expected. What wasn’t was Radwanska’s improved first serve. She fired seven aces to Ivanovic’s two, and saved all seven break points against her, including a few in the middle of the second set that stopped the Serb, who was beginning to gather momentum, in her tracks. And while her second serve is still a lollipop, Radwanska won 71 percent of the points when she had to hit it. That has to be a stat that will irritate Ivanovic.

While Ana walked off stonily, this wasn’t a bad event for her. She reached the fourth round and fulfilled her seeding. Plus, Radwanska was never going to be a good matchup for her. As for Aga, she runs her record to 13-0 in 2013, and does it by showing off an improved weapon in her serve. Next up for her is a quarterfinal date with Li Na. That will be another contrast in styles, and likely a closer match.

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