Madrid: Radwanska d. Bouchard

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The question, as it usually is for Agnieszka Radwanska’s opponents, was how long Eugenie Bouchard could walk the line. Play conservatively, and the Canadian would eventually be given the runaround by the thoughtfully steady Pole; play too aggressively and she would hit herself off the court. Either way, Radwanska was going to be there, doing what only she can do, making life as deceptively difficult as possible.

As the scores show, Bouchard, in a 7-6 (3), 6-2 loss, managed to keep her balance for one set. It was easy to see from the mirror-image stats who was the aggressor, and who was the defender, and how competitive the early going had been: Bouchard finished the first set with 20 winners and 20 errors; Radwanska finished with seven winners and five errors. It was mostly hit-and-miss tennis from Bouchard; one well-measured backhand would be followed by one that skidded past the baseline or into the tape. The shot is a weapon for her, but with its flat trajectory, it’s a risky one. Too often, Bouchard went for the all-out winner rather than the forcing, constructive shot with margin.

That’s in part, of course, because of who was on the other side of the net. Radwanska, true to form, made Bouchard pay whenever she was given the chance. Her stat line may not have shown much activity, but she had success wrong-footing Bouchard, surprising her with a sudden injection of pace, and scrambling to steal points she had no business winning. Aga saved her subtlest moves for when she needed them the most. At 3-2 in the tiebreaker, she put a little more on her return than normal and won the point; at 5-3, she moved Bouchard off the the court, sensed the advantage, and successfully pushed her way to the net.

With the first set in her pocket, Radwanska set about grinding her younger, less-experienced opponent down in the second. In her opening service game, Bouchard saved four break points, but couldn’t save the fifth. In the following game, Bouchard reached deuce, but lost that as well. Both times, she did everything but make the critical shot. By the time Bouchard was down 0-2, Radwanska seemed to be lodged firmly in her head. The Canadian took a ball out of the air that was obviously going to land out, and Aga dismissed her volley with a winning backhand pass down the line. By the final game, Bouchard had lost the range even on her favorite shot, the swing volley. On the second to last point, she drilled an easy one straight into the net.

Aga the Ninja’s silent work was over for another day, but it may get tougher for her soon. She moves on to play Svetlana Kuznetsova. As hard as it may be to believe, the Russian has won their last six matches, dating back to 2008.

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