NYTimes on Women's Final Finish Winner - Agnieszka Radwanska !
March 31, 2012
Sharapova Loses in Final, Making 45 Unforced ErrorsBy EDGAR THOMPSON
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Agnieszka Radwanska was an 18-year-old unknown from Poland the first time she defeated Maria Sharapova, during the 2007 United States Open.
At the time, Radwanska’s third-round upset of Sharapova — the defending champion — seemed to be a fluke and was followed by four years of futility against Sharapova.
But during Saturday’s 7-5, 6-4 victory in the final of the Sony Ericsson Open, Radwanska put her struggles against Sharapova to rest, ending a six-match losing streak to further solidify a spot at the top of the women’s game.
In fact, Radwanska, with her fourth tournament title since September, made a case that she is the world’s second-best player, a spot currently held by Sharapova, who lost a title match for the third time in 2012.
Radwanska, the world’s fourth-ranked player, has lost to only one player this year — top-ranked Victoria Azarenka, who was upset in the quarterfinals here.
“It’s still far, you know, even to be No. 3, 2 or 1,” Radwanska said. “But if I’m going to play like here, on a really good level, I am hoping I can reach top three very soon.”
Radwanska’s side-to-side movement and mistake-free brand of tennis frustrated Sharapova, whose go-for-broke style produced 45 unforced errors, compared with only 10 for Radwanska.
“She was very consistent, got that extra ball back, and I made that extra mistake,” Sharapova said. “When I had my chances at break point, I didn’t take them. When she had them, she did.”
Radwanska, the No. 5 seed, cruised into Saturday’s final without losing a set and playing only one match that lasted longer than 1 hour 20 minutes — her semifinal against Marion Bartoli. But to claim the biggest of her nine career wins, Radwanska, 23, had to work harder against Sharapova, a former world No. 1 and the No. 2 seed.
Radwanska fell into a hole a number of times on her serve during the first set but was able to hold each time. She fought off a break point in the fifth and seventh games, and she trailed, 0-30, before she bounced back to win the game and take a 6-5 lead.
Meanwhile, Sharapova’s powerful serve deserted her in key moments, including the final game of each set.
Sharapova lost only seven points on her serve in the first five games of the opening set, but fell behind, 0-40, as she looked to force a tiebreaker. She never recovered.
In the eighth game of the second set, Sharapova fell behind, 0-30, but was able to hold.
Serving to stay in the match two games later, she opened the set with three consecutive errors and managed to win only one point as the pro-Sharapova crowd cheered her on.
“I was always playing from behind,” Sharapova, 24, said. “I could have lost the game on my serve at any point in that set.”
Sharapova, winner of 24 tournaments, is still seeking her first title since August in Cincinnati.
Radwanska, on the other hand, has discovered a winning formula. After the semifinals, Radwanska said she had been playing more freely since Poland’s Fed Cup captain, Tomasz Wiktorowski, replaced her father, Robert, as her coach on the road last year.
Radwanska’s father was in Florida for the tournament but returned to Poland before the final because he had already changed his flight once.
Radwanska, unsure how she would fare against one of the top fields in tennis, said she also had to change her flight a couple of times. Armed with a $712,000 first-place check, she now does not plan to return to Poland before treating herself to some shopping.
“This is a good problem, right?” she said. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll go somewhere.”