Friday, July 06, 2012

2012 Wimbledon: Women's Final Preview

Serena Williams USA (6) v.  Agnieszka Radwanska POL (3) 
Here are my predictions for the women's final at the Wimbledon Championships for 2012. Last year I correctly predicted Petra Kvitova's win over Maria Sharapova in the women's final and Novak Djokovic's win over Rafael Nadal in the men's final. This year I have correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals2 of 2 women's semifinals4 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

How They Got Here: Women's Semifinals Review
Serena Williams USA (6) d. Victoria Azarenka BLR (2) 6-3 7-6(6).
Serena put on a serving display that has never been before on Centre Court, or frankly any court, to win her semifinal. In 11 service games and a 14 point tiebreaker Serena  blasted 24 aces, 1 more than the record she had set earlier in the tournament. Serena's set total is extraordinary; in the tournament through 6 rounds of play she had more aces than either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, despite (obviously) playing far less sets. Azarenka played an excellent match--she cut down on her unforced errors and was doing well to not only hang with Serena in the groundstroke rallies but Vika was actually able to win a lot of the important points from the back of the court. But whenever Serena got into any kind of trouble, her serve was able to bail her out. She only faced 2 breakpoints and was broken once, after she was already leading 6-3, 3-1. Azarenka was able to save a couple of breakpoints and then slightly faltered in the inevitable tiebreak when the score was even by hitting some unforced errors. Vika was able to save one match point on her serve, but the second was on Serena's and one knew that she would be able to end the match with one swing of the racket, which she did with her 24th ace.

Agnieszka Radwanska POL (3) d. Angelique Kerber GER (8) 6-3 6-4.
This match was actually much tighter than the score would indicate. Kerber is the more powerful player and grass always rewards players with lefty spin. She broke first and led 3-1, but even though she was playing in her first major semifinal, Radwanska did not panic and calmly held her service games and was able to break back twice to win 5 games in a row and steal the first set. Radwanska repeatedly frustrated Kerber with her tenacious defense and her opportunism, i.e. ability to instantly convert defense into offense and move forward to the net to win a point if she could see her opponent was even slightly out of position. The two had many long rallies which would finally end when Kerber would go for broke, more often than not hitting an error instead of a winner. That's how Radwanska wins, she hits a remarkably low number of unforced errors herself and incites her opponent to go for too much. The problem is that sometimes she meets someone who can combine power and accuracy and the strategy fails. Kerber was unable to rise to the occasion. The second set was also very close with just one break in the 5th game which the new World #2 nursed to reach her first ever major final. If she wins one more match she will not only become the new World #1, but she will lead the tour for the most matches won on tour in 2012 with 45. This almost certainly will not happen.

The Women's Final: Prediction
Agnieszka Radwanska POL (3) vs. Serena Williams USA (6). These two have met only twice in their career, both times in 2008 when Radwanska was a teenager, including here in a Wimbledon quarterfinal, with Serena winning both matches easily. In the last few years although there have been multiple players winning in their first appearance in a major: Francesca Schiavone (2010 French Open), Petra Kvitova (2011 Wimbledon) and Victoria Azarenka (2012 Australian Open), most Grand Slam winners have either won major titles before or are appearing in their second major final: Samantha Stosur (2011 US Open), Maria Sharapova (2012 French Open), Li Na (2011 French Open) and Kim Clijsters (2011 Australian Open, 2010 US Open). If Radwanska was playing a different opponent I do believe she has the mental fortitude to add her name to the first list, and I also think she has the potential to add her name to the second list as well.

Unfortunately for her, Aggie is playing the one active player who is appearing in her seventh final here at Wimbledon and her 18th major final overall. In fact, the only year in the last decade that Serena has not appeared in a major final was in 2006. There's almost nothing that Serena has to fear from Radwanska, even if she does get nervous as the significance of winning her 14th major at age 30 becomes closer to a reality. Serena is well aware that she nearly died last year from a blood clot and did not play a single professional match for a year during a convalescence which ended just over a year ago. I'm pretty sure that Serena's serve will continue to bail her out at important moments, and even if she gets frustrated by Radwanska's dogged defense, she knows that she will have her opportunities to win points in both her own service games,and her opponentt's. Prediction: Serena.

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