Radwanska hopes of final upset hit by 'respiratory illness'
Beating Serena Williams in a Wimbledon final is an arduous task in even the most ideal circumstances. Agnieszka Radwanska's circumstances, however, are considerably less than ideal.
The heavy cold, from which she has been suffering during the past week, forced her to forego her media commitments yesterday, putting her participation in today's final under something of a cloud.
The fact that she will be at less than full fitness for her first Grand Slam final makes Williams even more overwhelmingly a favourite than she would otherwise have been.
Were she to win, indeed, it would surely go down as one of the most remarkable triumphs in the women's game. The extent of Radwanska's illness remains in some doubt, with a spokesman for the women's tour saying only that she was "struggling to speak" as a result of a "respiratory illness".
The Pole does not need her voice to play tennis, of course -- which distinguishes her from many of her fellow players on the tour -- but her illness was, however, deemed serious enough for her to pull out of the ladies' doubles earlier in the week, in which she had reached the third round with her sister Urszula.
Illness or no illness, Radwanska will have her work cut out this afternoon. The 23-year-old from Krakow has performed admirably on grass despite her relative lack of exposure to the surface. "There are no grass courts in Poland," she said last week.
"We have fake grass, that's all. People in Poland are always trying to imagine what it's like to play on real grass. In 2005, when I won the junior Wimbledon title, it was my first trip to England and the first time that I played on grass."
Having started the tournament slowly, Williams has built up an irresistible head of steam, and approaches the final approximating the form that has seen her claim her 13 previous Grand Slam singles titles. Along the way she has beaten the defending champion, Petra Kvitova, and the world No 2, Victoria Azarenka, without conceding a set to either.
More importantly, she appears to be in fine fettle mentally.
Following her semi-final on Thursday, having served a Wimbledon record of 24 aces against Azarenka, she seemed to be in a sort of trance. "I didn't realise I was slamming it," she said. "I was just out there playing, you know."
It is when she is "just out there playing" that Williams is most dangerous. The rhythms of competitive tennis that are normally calibrated through those long months on the tour generally take longer for Williams, who has played just seven tournaments this year against Radwanska's 13, to assimilate.
Rarely since her year-long injury break in 2010-11 has she looked entirely comfortable on the court. In the Kvitova and Azarenka matches, however, she looked utterly at ease.
Williams' serve remains her most potent weapon. As a rule of thumb, the longer the rally goes on the better Radwanska's chances. Radwanska is built for the long game; she chases and harries and rarely makes an error.
In fact, she has featured in six of the 20 longest rallies in the women's tournament so far.
In this tournament, 44pc of Williams' serves have not been returned. She has won 80pc of points on her first serve.
Radwanska, by contrast, has got 84pc of her returns back into court, and won 64pc of points on her opponent's second serve.
To characterise it crudely, then, it is the irresistible force against the immovable object. Radwanska's chances of a first Grand Slam title will be dictated by how many second balls she sees. (©Daily Telegraph, London)
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