Radwanska Outsmarts an Errant Ostapenko to move into Eastbourne Semifinals

Agnieszka Radwanska’s return to professional tennis has gained some serious momentum after defeating 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 7-5 and reaching her first semifinal since New Haven of last year.

Ostapenko made the first real move in this encounter as she started firing away on her forehand side, but also showed her variety in some brave plays as she took an early break in the third game of the first set. The Latvian is known for her power and her refusal to play with a bit of margin, but in all of her matches this week she has utilised the drop shot time after time and it was something she tried to initiate today. Potentially it is something that new coach Glenn Schaap is trying to add to her game in order for her to continue to improve as one of the top players on tour.

Radwanska really started to navigate her way into this match-up. Over the course of the Pole’s career she has done very well in the match-up against the power players, often finding a way to find the angles, move the aggressive player into awkward positions and make them play difficult shots and stopping them from getting into a comfortable rally from the baseline. The Pole managed to win five games on the spin and found herself leading 4-2 in the second set, but Ostapenko began to unload on her aggressive groundstrokes and started to connect with winners. The problem for the Latvian was sustaining that level and Radwanska used her court skills to win a second set that featured seven breaks on serve in total.

Tennis really can be all about match-ups. Radwanska really does like to play the power players because she waits for the moments for them to blow hot and cold and really maintains her level, keeps hold of the consistency and allows her opponent to go off the boil. The key to playing Radwanska really is to play with contained aggression and to expect many balls to come back, but pick wisely when to strike heavy on the last ball, but Ostapenko is still at that stage where she is still quite far away from applying that to her tennis and that proved to be a problematic feature to her game against the 2008 Eastbourne champion.

The former Wimbledon finalist analysed the match from her side of the court and revealed what she did well overall in the two sets of tennis she played today.

“Obviously conditions are also tough today. Hot, a little bit windy, as well, on that court. Well, it was a tight match, for sure, in that second set. A lot of up- and-downs, a lot of breaks, different match than the others, but, you know, it’s always good to win another match like this.  Yeah, I think she was definitely returning better than serving, and I think serve in that match was not really the huge weapon. A lot of breaks from both sides and a lot of 30-Loves, 40-Loves. You know, games going to the other way. But that’s what I was trying to do, as well, trying to be aggressive and not let her play, and especially against the wind, but I think I still did a good job.”

Radwanska said in her post-match press conference that she only expected to play two matches maximum on her comeback, but now has to prepare for her fourth singles match of the week and a first semifinal of the 2018 season on her first tournament back from a hip and back issue.

“No, not at all. Actually, I just — here I took only three dresses with me, so it’s enough, like, for sure. I thought maybe one or two matches at the most. Especially I’m unseeded, so you always have to play someone from the top. No, I didn’t expect that at all”

There had been a lot of conversation whether the brand of tennis that Radwanska plays had no place in the modern game and whether the game had truly passed her by in many ways, but the Pole was adamant that there is still room for finesse players like her on the court.

“Well, I think so. I think there are a lot of players still playing that kind of tennis. But also, I’m not going to change my game. Even if I wanted to, there is no chance I’m going to hit as powerful as the other ones. So that’s the way I play. I can always, you know, try to be more aggressive on the court, but I never gonna serve or, you know, hit a forehand like those couple of girls bombing those balls.”

Agnieszka Radwanska now has a semifinal to look forward to against rising talent Aryna Sabalenka, who defeated last year’s champion Karolina Pliskova in three sets.

(Main Photo from Getty)

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