Agnieszka Radwanska continues her search for form ahead of the Australian Open in a quarter final meeting with China’s Duan Ying-Ying at the Apia International Sydney on Wednesday.
The world number three reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2016, but that was after a near-flawless opening week in Shenzhen, where she won the title without dropping a set. Her start to 2017 has been less authoritative. She was beaten in the Shenzhen quarter-finals by American, Alison Riske (Radwanska had beaten Riske in last year’s final); two rounds after saving match points against Chinese wildcard, and world number 103, Duan Ying-Ying- who happens to be Radwanska’s next opponent in Sydney.
Having received a bye into the second round in Sydney, Radwanska’s rustiness surfaced again in the opening stages of her first match against American, Christina McHale. The upset was well and truly on when the world number three dropped her first two service games to fall 3-0 down, but the Pole quickly erased the deficit with back-to-back breaks of her own, before playing a dominant tie break to take the set. That settled her down, and she was more of her competent self in the second set. There were quite a few long games in the set, but the Pole came up trumps at the most significant moments. A rain delay slightly halted her run to victory, but she returned to win the final two games, and wrap up a 7-6 6-1 victory on her third match point.
Duan has been on a surprise run in Sydney, coming through the qualifiers to book her place in a rare WTA quarter final. She has beaten some decent players too. Among Duan’s victims include American’s Varvara Lepchenko and Coco Vandeweghe. Her 6-3 6-2 victory over Vandeweghe in the second round has been her stand-out result, as the American world number 38 had shown some decent form at last week’s Hopman Cup in Perth. Having come so close to upsetting Radwanska in Shenzhen, can she finish the job in Sydney?
That meeting in Shenzhen was not only Radwanska’s first match of the year, it was also the first between the two ladies on the WTA tour, and the third-ranked Pole suggested that may have played a role in the difficulty she encountered in shaking off the Chinese.
‘Now I know what to expect. We played for the first time last week and that was a three-hour battle. I was one point from home. Now I know what to do and how it’s gonna be. I’m just going to enjoy the game’.
It remains to be seen whether Radwanska has truly devised a game-plan to make life more comfortable when she reunites with an opponent, who will not only be buoyed by her close shave in Shenzhen, but also by her super run in Sydney this week. However, regardless of whatever Duan throws at Radwanska, that will likely end on against Radwanska, who more often than not, finds a way to get past a stark underdog like Duan Ying-Ying.