Agnieszka Radwanska, who’s had some of the brightest moments of her career at Wimbledon, scored one of the hardest-fought victories on Day 1 of The Championships on Monday, saving six match points to edge Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse in a Court 1 thriller, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
It’s been a difficult last few months for Radwanska. A back injury retirement from a match at a small clay court event in Istanbul in April turned into a full-on two-month lay-off from the tour, forcing her out of the French Open, which was actually the first time she’d missed a Grand Slam in 12 years.
She made a strong return to the tour in Eastbourne last week, reaching the semifinals of the Premier-level event, and is now at her best major, Wimbledon, where she not only reached her only Grand Slam final in 2012 (losing to Serena Williams in three sets) but another two semifinals in 2013 and 2015.
WATCH—Daily Serve from Day 1 at Wimbledon:
Her return to Grand Slam competition almost came to an abrupt end against Ruse, though. After Radwanska jumped out to a 5-0 lead—with points for a first-set bagel—Ruse clawed her way back into the match, winning the next three games before finally surrendering the first set, winning the second set and then bringing up six match points with Radwanska serving at 4-5 in the third set.
Not bad for a No.195-ranked 20-year-old playing the main draw of a major for the first time.
But Radwanska, a former world No. 2, was just too tough when it mattered most, fighting all of those match points off, holding for 5-all, breaking then holding one last time to close the marathon out.
Despite coming so close to defeat, Radwanska finished the match with positive numbers—21 winners to 17 unforced errors—while the much more aggressive Ruse had 49 winners to 66 unforced errors.
Radwanska’s path won’t get any easier—in the second round she’ll face Lucie Safarova, who’s won their last three meetings (and four of five career meetings). They haven’t played since 2011, though.
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