Of the four quarter-finals at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, the one on paper that stood out like a shining beacon was the only one featuring two seeds, Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber. I knew it would be the night match on Friday but it didn’t stop me selfishly wishing the schedulers had put it up first so little me could watch it. The match was at 3am in the UK which is pretty much the worst time in the middle of the night.
When I woke up, Twitter was glowing with praise.
The joy of TennisTV is being able to watch matches in their full entirety which I’ve just done… It was two and a half hours well spent. I really enjoy encounters like this one where it’s not all about power. Radwanska was at crafty best, while Kerber was so mentally sound and never dropped her spirit. Aside from failing to serve out the first set, Radwanska was clearly the better player early on. Kerber made a lot of errors but she was only just missing.
Kerber came into the net quite a bit which wasn’t a tactic that was working particularly well against someone like Radwanska. It was positive to see though with Kerber taking more chances and trying to be aggressive. Even if something isn’t working, it’s an encouraging sign to see Kerber confident enough to execute this gameplan. It wasn’t a peak Kerbs performance but where she did excel herself was mentally and hanging in there. Radwanska could easily have wrapped up the match in straight sets. Radwanska had two break points up 4-3 in the second set which if she had taken, would have seen her serve for the match. The second break point was a shot down-the-line that missed by a whisker.
Towards the end of the second set, they posted the stats at the net – Kerber was 7/20 while Radwanska was 22/30. There were so many fun cat and mouse points with Radwanska coming out on top in many of them. The WTA has started posting video highlights during matches on their Twitter account which i’m sure is a new thing! Thumbs up anyway…
Radwanska produced so many moments of magic…
While Radwanska was the better player for large chunks of the match, Kerber was that little bit stronger and her resilience paid off in the third set. The commentary team of Vladka Uhilirova and Guy McCrea (my favourite pair on TennisTV) talked in detail about Kerber’s mental toughness and that was shining bright in that third set. The turnaround from the start of the year has been quite something and she seems to have her belief and fight back which definitely escaped her for a time. Working with Torben Beltz again appears to be one of the factors for this change in fortunes.
After Radwanska had fought back from an early break down in the third set, she succumbed at 4-4 in a physical game where Kerber was at her determined best. The German player served out the third set to love to book her place in the semi-finals where she will play Elina Svitolina. While it was a great, great match, it was probably in my top 10 as opposed to being a match of the year candidate. I had such high expectations for the match after I read everything on Twitter and I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t found out the scoreline beforehand. I’d go as far to say that Kerber is my favourite player to watch… so many of my top 10 matches this year have featured Kerber.
Much like Kerber, Radwanska seems to have turned her fortunes around and if she can keep playing like this, she will be one to watch over the next month. Kerber’s semi-final opponent in Stanford, Svitolina has looked down and out twice this week; in the first round, Svitolina was two games from defeat against Kateryna Bondarenko before pulling out the win, 4-6 6-4 7-5 in what was a super match. In the quarters, Alison Riske served for the match but Svitolina fought back to prevail, 4-6 7-5 6-1. Riske played some fabulous tennis for two sets, being positive and closing points at the net with great success. However, this was another example where Alison was in control of a match but she was not able to get across the finish line.
Kerber-Svitolina should be another exciting prospect. The pair are tied at 2-2 in their head-to-head with Svitolina coming from a set and two breaks down in their last match in Brisbane, winning through, 4-6 7-5 6-3. Kerber is much more solid mentally right now so it will be interesting to see whether that match will play on her mind at all. Svitolina’s defence is up there with the best, but she sits back a bit too much for my liking. I’m sure this is something that will come with experience. If Kerber is as positive as she was against Radwanska, I think she will take this one in two tight sets.