Can anybody stop Radwanska?
Agnieszka Radwanska is currently riding a 10-match winning streak. But come Sunday she will face her first genuine test of the Australian Open, when she faces 2008 finalist and former World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.
The 23-year-old Pole has already captured two titles this season before anybody could really blink.
She enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2012, reaching the final at Wimbledon and giving Serena Williams a real scare and then reaching a career high ranking of World No. 2.
But at times she was inconsistent, as proven by a third round exit at Roland Garros to Svetlana Kuznetsova (I actually predicted Kuznetsova would win), a first round exit at the Olympics and a fourth round loss to Roberta Vinci at the US Open.
If she can start to improve her clay and North American records this year, then expect her to go deep at those two tournaments that I have mentioned. But she will have to wait until 2016 to atone for her poor showing in London last year.
Her next opponent shouldn’t be underestimated. Ana Ivanovic is a former World No. 1 and a former French Open champion, having captured the title in 2008.
However since then she continually under-performed at Grand Slam tournaments.
That is, until last year’s US Open where she reached the quarter-finals and was only beaten by Serena Williams. That breakthrough last year was Ivanovic’s first Grand Slam quarter-final since her triumph in Paris in 2008.
Nothing needs to be explained of Agnieszka Radwanska’s dominance this year. She has won 20 straight sets this season and counting, with Heather Watson her latest victim.
Ana Ivanovic was again shaky in the first set of her match against compatriot and Fed Cup team-mate Jelena Jankovic, coughing up 15 consecutive points while serving for the set at 5-2.
But she was able to steady at 5-all, break Jankovic’s serve and was able to serve it out to take the first set 7-5 after Jankovic double-faulted on Ivanovic’s set point.
What I saw from Ivanovic in the second set was very impressive. The moment where she broke Jankovic to go 2-0 up really set the tone for the second set and Jankovic did not recover.
Her forehands and backhands were very clean and a pleasure to watch. If she can reproduce this form against Radwanska in the fourth round, she can go a long way towards reaching at least the semi-finals, where Maria Sharapova or Venus Williams would likely await.
However her record against Top 10 players has been very poor as of recent.
Since winning Roland Garros in 2008 (defeating then-World No. 3 Jelena Jankovic in the semi-finals en route), she is 0-6 against Top 10 opponents, and five of them were against Top Four players.
Being seeded between 13-16 is a bit unlucky as it means meeting one of the Top Four in the Round of 16, and it’s more unlucky if it’s a player who is in red hot form at the moment, such as Radwanska.
Unfortunately, this is the task facing Ana on Sunday and if she hand’t finished 2012 poorly she wouldn’t be in this position right now.
So how did Ana Ivanovic reach the final eight at Flushing Meadows last year? She was ranked World No. 12 at the time and that meant not having to face any of the Top Four until the quarter-finals.
She had been drawn to face Caroline Wozniacki (whom Ana enjoys a 3-2 record against) but the Dane, along with three other seeds in Ivanovic’s section of the draw, were beaten in the first round, leaving the Serb as the highest seed left in her section.
She took full advantage of her rivals’ early departures and easily coasted to the quarter-finals, where she met Serena Williams.
As expected, Ivanovic was defeated, but she held her head up high after her run to the last eight in New York. An amazing achievement considering the tough build-up she endured with the double-bagel wipeout in Montreal and the subsequent foot injury.
Ana Ivanovic has won three of her seven meetings against Agnieszka Radwanska, but has lost the last four in a row, though all of them were very close.
Their last meeting was in the Beijing quarter-finals in 2011 where Ivanovic had to retire due to a back injury. Their only meeting in a Grand Slam was in the second round of the 2007 Australian Open with Ana Ivanovic winning in straight sets.
Maybe that could bring good news to fans of the glamorous Serb (myself included), but I don’t see a repeat of that happening, given the form Radwanska is in at the moment.
As much as I don’t love to tip against my beloved Ana Ivanovic, I still think Agnieszka Radwanska will prevail in three tight sets.
For Ana Ivanovic to reverse her poor record against Top Four players in Grand Slam tournaments, she must reproduce the form that saw her crush Melinda Czink in the first round and Jelena Jankovic in the third.
Not taking the Hopman Cup into consideration, Ivanovic is undefeated this season, but one of them must lose on Sunday. Who will it be?
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