BEIRUT

Tennis

Final beckons for Radwanska and Williams

Radwanska is the first Pole to reach a Grand Slam final in 73 years. (AFP/Glyn Kirk)

LONDON: Agnieszka Radwanska became the first Pole to reach a Grand Slam final for 73 years when she overpowered German Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-4 Thursday in her Wimbledon semifinal, setting up a final with American ace Serena Williams.

After a shaky start, the third seed proved too consistent for her friend Kerber, who had led the first set 3-1 following an early break. But Radwanska found her range and grew in confidence, forcing the left-handed Kerber to run around court.

“We are really good friends, of course, but on court we’re opponents and you’re trying everything to make the final,” Radwanska said.

“We both were a bit nervous at the beginning, of course. You really want to try your best but sometimes you want it too much and your hands are shaking, but after that I concentrated on every point.”

The 23-year-old broke back to level the first set at 3-3 when eighth seed Kerber netted a forehand and did so again to lead 5-3 before serving out for the set, which she sealed with an ace in under half an hour.

Radwanska broke again early in the second set, and although Kerber had one huge chance to level for 3-3 when her opponent put a backhand behind the baseline following a 16-stroke rally, the German wasted it sending a forehand long.

After that, Kerber never looked like getting back into the match and Radwanska sealed victory on her first match point to become only the second Pole to reach a Grand Slam final.

Jadwiga Jedrzejowska was the runner-up at the 1937 Wimbledon and U.S. Championships, as well as the 1939 French Championships.

Four-time champion Williams buried Victoria Azarenka under a record firestorm of 24 aces to reach her seventh final Thursday.

The 30-year-old American claimed a 6-3 7-6 (8/6) semifinal win and will tackle third seeded Radwanska Saturday as she aims to claim her 14th major.

As well as a record 24 aces, beating her own best of 23 set against Zheng Jie in the third round, Williams also fired a whopping 45 winners.

Williams will start as the hot favorite Saturday having beaten Polish world No. 3 Radwanska in their two meetings without dropping a set, including the Wimbledon quarterfinals of 2008 where the American lost just four games.

Williams played two doubles matches with sister Venus Wednesday, but showed no signs of fatigue against Azarenka. The 30-year-old took the first set courtesy of eight aces and 20 winners, while allowing her opponent just four points on the American’s serve.

It was the first set dropped by the 22-year-old Belarusian at the tournament this year.

Buoyed by a 7-1 winning record against the Australian Open champion, who could have retaken the world No. 1 spot had she won, Williams broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set, secured with a sweeping forehand service return.

Azarenka hit back to level at 3-3 before saving a match point in the tiebreak with the world No. 6.

But the record 24th ace, blitzed right down the middle, gave Williams a deserved win.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 06, 2012, on page 15.

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