A fascinating match-up between Agnieszka Radwanska and Timea Bacsinszky is all set for Miami’s Magic Monday line-up of fourth round matches.
Compare Bacsinszky’s current form in Miami to how she played in Australia and the difference is quite remarkable. The 26-year-old Swiss player struggled through the Australian swing, clearly still hampered by a knee injury that she picked up in Luxembourg at the end of the 2015. Her movement was sluggish and this seemed to impact negatively in all aspects of her game, particularly the forehand. Since Doha, Bacsinszky has looked back, or at least close, to full fitness, and is beginning to show streaks of the 2015 form that saw her crack the world’s top ten in October last year.
Bacsinszky enjoyed her best win of the year by ranking on Saturday, defeating the number 16 seed, Ana Ivanovic, 7-5 6-4. It was a thoroughly entertaining match, particularly the first set, which had plenty of twists and turns, and some high-quality exchanges. Ivanovic won the first three games, but was quickly pegged back by Bacsinszky, who got her backhand going and hit a handful of delicious passing shot winners.
Down a break, Ivanovic looked all over the place and was breathing heavily on the changeover. She responded well though to win two straight games and force Bacsinszky to serve with scoreboard pressure at *4-5. The Swiss player quickly found herself down three set points; Bacsinszky rallied to save them all, including a stunning second serve ace out wide (!), to get to 5-5. Ivanovic then double faulted down break point and Bacsinszky held her nerve to serve out the first set, 7-5.
Bacsinszky carried the momentum into the second set to go up a double break with a flat and despondent, Ivanovic, perhaps struggling with the humid conditions. Bacsinszky did get a little passive at the end, losing three games on the trot from 5-1 to 5-4, as Ivanovic relaxed and started to go for her shots. The Swiss player served out the match at the second time of asking with a great game; another backhand winner and two aces!
Despite sporting extra strapping on the shoulder this week, Radwanska has navigated through her first two matches in Miami with consummate ease. Radwanska produced an array of hotshots in her second round win over Alizé Cornet, 6-0 6-1. The world number two passed an awkward challenge in the third round against Madison Brengle, coming through, 6-3 6-2, in 73 minutes. Radwanska recovered from 1-3 down in the first set and overall played a solid match, hitting 21 winners to 17 unforced errors and winning 15 out of 22 points at the net. Radwanska has done a great job this week of getting through these matches in reasonably quick time, which should help her out for the challenges ahead.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Bacsinszky thrashed an out-of-sorts, Radwanska, 6-1 6-1 (!) in Fed Cup action last year.
Interesting stat: This time last year, Radwanska had won nine matches through six tournaments. In 2016, she’s already at 19 match wins through five tournaments and Miami is not yet finished! Bacsinszky’s record is a reversal in the other direction; this year she has won just seven matches through six tournaments, but had already won 19 matches in 2015 even with skipping Miami.
Final thoughts: Love, love, LOVE the sound of this match-up. Radwanska and Bacsinszky are two of the smartest players on tour. I’ve developed a real fondness for watching Radwanska of late and I admire that she’s trying to be more aggressive and come into the net… well it seems like that, to me at least! Bacsinszky frequently has her tactics spot on. The backhand is glorious but she can hold her ground on the weaker forehand side, mixing in slices and drop shots. She often makes life awkward for her opponent so they end up going back to the backhand.
Radwanska’s level is heaps higher than when they met in the Fed Cup last year and Bacsinszky is getting closer to her best level. I think (and HOPE) this will be a great match. Bacsinszky blew hot and cold against Ivanovic and while it was a very good performance, she’ll need to be a bit steadier to get past someone of Radwanska’s consistency. Tempted to go for Bacsinszky because Radwanska has played a lot of tennis in the past two months but at the same time, it’s tough to go against the world number two in her recent form…