Istanbul: S. Williams d. Radwanska
It’s getting difficult to sing Serena Williams’ praises without sounding like a broken record. Her most consistent season? Check. More motivated than ever? Looks that way. Playing with more patience? Indeed. Still miles ahead of any of the other women when it comes to combining offense and defense? Yep. Still in possession of the most important weapon in the game, her serve? Definitely. These days, you really don’t need anyone to call her matches. The commentators have said it all a hundred times before.
Serena rendered all commentary redundant again today, with a 6-2, 6-4 win over the second seed in her group, Agnieszka Radwanska. Williams, who to no one’s surprise jumped out to a 3-0 lead, was in command virtually the entire way, and she dominated the stat sheet. She hit 35 winners to Radwanska’s nine; was 18 of 22 at the net; and converted four of five break points while saving seven of the eight that Radwanska managed to earn.
Serena's only hiccup came when she was ahead 3-1 in the second set. Radwanska had been trying to go big with her forehand for much of the day, to little avail; but with nothing to lose in the second set, she started to connect. Serena, called for a second foot fault at 3-1, tightened up long enough to let the score get back to 3-3. When she went down 0-30 on her serve in that game, it looked like the momentum was about to swing around to Radwanska’s side of the net. But it never got there, because on the next point, Aga hit a sitter backhand pass right to Serena’s racquet, and Serena stabbed a forehand volley lob that plunked down an inch inside the baseline. Radwanska’s shoulders slumped, Serena relaxed, and order in the WTA universe was soon restored.
If you’re looking for things not to praise about this performance, you could say that Serena’s first-serve percentage, at 56, was low. You could say that she was quick to get anxious when Radwanska put a few winning points together. You could say that at times she opened up a little too much on her famous open-stance backhand—Serena hit a few of them while leading with her left foot today, which isn’t easy for a righty to do. And you could even say that Radwanska let her off the hook by not cashing in on three break points in the first game of the match, and three more in the first game of the second set. Aga never forced Serena to play from behind.
It probably wouldn’t have mattered. There’s a reason Serena is 75-4 on the season, and you don’t need any commentator or writer to tell you what it is. She’s just better than everyone else.