Racquet Reaction

Madrid: Robson d. A. Radwanska

Monday, May 06, 2013 /by
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Agnieszka Radwanska is a shrewd problem solver, but the world No. 4 spent much of today’s second-rounder rushed for response time and lunging in vain at the blasts emanating from Laura Robson’s racquet. Ripping authoritative strikes, Robson broke Radwanska’s serve five times in a row, winning nine of the final 10 games in rolling to an impressive 6-3, 6-1 rout of the 2012 semifinalist.

It would be understandable if Robson felt twinges of illness and fatigue when she took the court today: She looked sick and tired of losing. The world No. 41 had not won back-to-back matches since the Australian Open, but stopped that ignominious slide with her first win over a Top 10 player since she beat former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in Melbourne, 2-6, 6-3, 11-9.

This was the first meeting between two former Wimbledon girls’ champions who take decidedly different approaches to point construction. Robson tries to take it to you; Radwanska tries to take you to places you don’t want to be.

The left-handed Brit set the tone for the match by winning the toss, electing to serve and holding at 30 with a fine backhand volley winner. Wrong-footing Radwanska is about as easy as shedding your shadow—her anticipation and court sense is so sharp that she's often moving to the spot of the opponent’s shot before it arrives there (her mesmerizing behind-the-back volley in Miami has attracted 2.7 million views on YouTube). But Robson befuddled the magician with her finesse when she wasn’t busy blasting her off the court. Thumping her forehand into the corners with authority, Robson hit 20 more winners than Radwanska (29 to nine) and dictated most of the baseline exchanges.

When Robson is in rhythm with her forehand, it’s a dangerous and difficult shot to read because she lays her wrist back and can conceal the direction of her drive. A Robson forehand down the line gave her a second break point in the opening set, and when Radwanska netted a forehand, the Brit had the first break and a 5-3 lead.

Robson took the court with almost twice as many double faults (114) as aces (67) this year, but from the opening ball she served with clarity and command. A stinging serve into the body earned her triple set point; the 19-year-old then opened the court with a slice serve into the corner, and closed the set by sweeping a flat forehand winner down the line.

Slamming the side of her racquet against the soles of her Lotto shoes to try to shake clumps of collected clay loose, Radwanska looked spooked by the weight of Robson’s shots and dumped a double fault to open the second set, eventually dropping serve at 15. She broke back on the strength of a running forehand that drew an error from Robson to level at 1-1, but that would be the Pole’s final stand.

Creeping inside the baseline, Robson hammered Radwanska’s second serve, winning 16 of 28 points played on her second delivery. Fittingly, a Robson forehand return on match point drew one final error to close the 73-minute match. Robson will face either 16th-seeded Ana Ivanovic or Chanelle Scheepers next.

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