Welcome to the another edition of The Verdict! This will be the way we write about matches from time to time. Here is the scale used to evaluate the match and certain aspects of each player:
Overall Match Rating:
There was a lot of fun to be had for significant stretches of this match … and then there were the patches where the errors (mostly from Li Na, who ended with 40 unforced errors to Radwanska’s 18), as well as the interruptions (due to rain and Radwanska’s medical timeout) dampened the mood somewhat. Still, the Centre Court crowd was thrilled by this roller-coaster of a match, and gave the players a standing ovation. One has to agree that it wasn’t easy to take your eyes away from what these two women were producing. The obvious clash of styles stood out, and there was plenty of great shotmaking of all kinds to enjoy.
The Verdict on Agnieszka Radwanska
Last year’s runner-up seemed to be destined for a straight sets win after she found a way to steal the first set and go up a break in the second. However, some passive play from her end and some great play from Li Na forced her into a decider, before which she had her right thigh taped. Apparently this is not the only physical issue Radwanska is dealing with, so kudos go to her for overcoming them all en route to a semifinal berth.
I thought Agnieszka looked great for stretches, and dangerously passive for a few passages of the match. I liked her approach of being proactive with her forehand, which she used to great effect to make Li Na defend off her backhand side, even if this idea was only used sparingly. Aga did a great job defending her iffy second serve (she averages only 71 mph on that delivery, if you can believe it), and her backhand was rock solid all match. The World No. 4 steadied herself after the medical time out, and had to fight to keep the instant break lead she obtained in the third set.
The question about Radwanska that doesn’t leave my mind is this: is she too physically hampered to overcome the potentially huge hitters she’ll have to face in the semis (Lisicki) and in the final (Kvitova)? She’ll have to do an awful lot of running in those two matches, which can’t help matters at all.
The Verdict on Li Na
Where to begin? On the strange decision not to challenge what looked like (and was, according to Hawk-Eye) an ace out wide on the far sideline (from the chair umpire’s perspective) that would’ve given her the first set? On the three straight unforced errors from 5-4 up in the first set breaker that effectively handed over the set to Radwanska?
Recognition should be given to Li Na for her fightback in the second. After all, she looked done and dusted after her first set collapse. But that was followed by a lapse in concentration after Radwanska’s MTO at the start of the third that cost her dearly. Li Na never really recovered the rhythm she found in the second set, but that’s more or less the story of her career, no?
It was disappointing to see her employ such great tactics (move Radwanska from side to side, wait for the short ball, finish with a high-margin shot, as well as coming to net at opportune moments) but consistently fail to execute them properly. The one aspect of Li Na’s gameplan that I didn’t agree with was the infatuation with trying to hit behind Radwanska. This almost always backfired, since Li Na doesn’t have great disguise on her shots, and few people in tennis anticipate better than Aga Radwanska.
In the end, it was all about lack of proper execution for Li Na, as well as her classic concentration lapses. In other words, business as usual.