Thursday, July 5, 2012

Are you being served?!

Four-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams served 24 aces today in her semifinal match against Victoria Azarenka, including a perfect down-the-T for match point. ("I want to go out with a bang, you know how I do it," she said on Saturday.) But that was just part of the story: Williams won 15 of 16 first serves in the first set, and she won 41 of 50 total first serves. She also served as fast as 120 mph, and she hit 45 winners, while making only 14 unforced errors.

And she even did an upper-body chicken walk dance after firing one of her aces. You know how she does it.

24 aces, by the way, is a WTA record--and Williams hit them all in straight sets.

What was it like on the other side of the net? It was actually a good show. Azarenka hung in with Williams in a way that many others could not have, and even broke Williams once in the second set. Williams' 6-3, 7-6 victory was one she didn't have to work too hard for (Zheng Jie was already gone), but she had to work, nonetheless. And work she did, putting on yet another service clinic and going to yet another Wimbledon final.

There are some who might believe that Azarenka's fate--to come so close but then be denied the opportunity to play in another major final--had already been decided according to the wrath of The Radwanska, whose somewhat sadistic trickster spirirt (some might believe) had already vanquished Maria Sharapova from the tournament. And if indeed The Radwanska is quietly manipulating affairs at the All England Club, It's doing a bang-up job: Its embodiment, Agnieszka Radwanska, will be playing in the final on Saturday.

Radwanska defeated a somewhat-spent Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-4 in today's semifinals. The third seed, who is the first Polish woman to reach a major final in the Open Era, is now guaranteed a ranking of number 2 in the world, and--should she win the title--she'll hold the number 1 position.

This was Radwanska at her best, even in the second set, when it looked as though Kerber may have figured out how to win more points. The 3rd seed's anticipation and subsequent easy movement left little room for Kerber to get any breathing space in the rallies. The Polish star used what Christopher Clarey has officially dubbed the "Radwanska squat shot" over and over (Kerber hit some of them too), going low to get balls back, and then moving in to finish off the points. Radwanska's control of the rallies was, in typical fashion, somewhat deceptive, but had much to do with her sometimes uncanny knowledge about where both the ball and the opponent are going. Radwanska, by the way, made only six unforced errors in the entire match.

It had to end some time: 2nd seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci's 25-match streak was broken today by 2011 French Open champions Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. The Czech team defeated the Italians 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. But it wasn't exactly a bad day for Italy. Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone defeated Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-2, 6-7, 6-4.

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