Montreal: Radwanska d. V. Williams

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Radwanska won her first title of 2014 in straight sets. (AP Photo)

This was the match that Venus Williams’s opponents had been waiting for, and the one her fans had feared was inevitable. After scoring surprise three-set wins over Angelique Kerber and her sister Serena in the the quarters and semis, the 34-year-old Venus had no comebacks, and little energy, left up her her sleeve for the final. The last person you want to see on a day like that happened to be the person Venus had to face. Agnieszka Radwanska made life as tough as possible for the American, and walked away with her first title of the year in routine fashion, 6-4, 6-2.

Asked what her strategy has been, Radwanska said, “I tried to keep the ball out of the middle.” In tennis terms, that’s a little like Picasso saying he was just trying to scratch out a few lines on a canvas. Radwanska brought her full array of tricks and treats—as well as a grooved serve—to Montreal. She lost just one set on her way to the final, and once she was there, she drove Venus half-crazy with her anticipation, defense, change of directions, and improvised shot-making. Radwanska committed just eight unforced errors, was five of six on break points, and hit three aces to Venus’s one, including one on match point.

Venus, meanwhile, was tentative about how to construct points against an opponent who is an expert at absorbing pace and providing her little of her own in return. Williams contributed mightily to her own demise, double-faulting six times and making 41 unforced errors; but a fair number of those mistakes came because Radwanska hung around and forced her to hit one more shot in a rally.

By finishing 1-2 in Montreal, Radwanska and Williams added themselves to the U.S. Open conversation—they aren’t the favorites, by any stretch, but they can’t be ignored now, either. And who would want to ignore them? Each woman saved something special for last. Serving for the match at 5-2, Radwanska pulled out the last bow in her quiver, the squat shot—basically, she fired a forehand winner while she was sitting on the court. As for Venus, she didn’t stay somber in defeat for long. Walking out to receive the runner-up trophy, she turned to the ball boy who accompanied her and gave him a big high-five. Even in defeat, Venus inspires.

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