While Britain prepares itself for Andy Murray’s moment of reckoning tomorrow afternoon, two women will walk out onto Centre Court, hoping to break records of their own.
Serena Williams – America’s powerhouse – has literally served her way through this year’s competition. Her unlucky semi-final opponent Victoria Azarenka was on the receiving end of a record 24 aces – more than any woman has served in a Wimbledon match before. She’s currently sitting pretty on 81 in total, so, if today’s final proves lengthy, has a shot at reaching 100 over the course of the tournament – a feat never achieved by a woman in a Grand Slam.
But Radwanska is chasing records of her own. Thanks to Thursday’s 6-3 6-4 victory over Angelique Kerber, she became the first Polish woman to reach a Wimbledon final in 75 years – the last, Jadwiga Jedrzejowska, lost to Britain’s Dorothy Pound in 1937. If she silences her critics and beats Serena in today’s contest she will seal a fantastic season by taking the world number one spot off Maria Sharapova.
Based on form this year the third-seeded Pole should step out on court today as the favourite: even Serena has acknowledged, “Agnieszka has had a better year than I have. She’s been way more consistent than me so she’s ranked higher. She deserves to be.” But despite her shock loss to Virginie Razzano in the first round of the French Open last month, it is the younger Williams sister who is widely tipped to walk away with the Wimbledon title.
The aggression and desire she has shown over the past two weeks have firmly re-established her as a leading contender in the sport. After overcoming a life-threatening injury last year (she underwent emergency treatment for complications from an earlier pulmonary embolism), Serena has bounced back up the rankings and, should she hold her rediscovered form, looks unstoppable going into this year’s All England Club final.
Radwanska has struggled with illness of her own, pulling out of most of yesterday’s press commitments thanks to what has been publicly termed an “upper respiratory illness”. She is confirmed to play today’s match but, if she faces the in-form Serena of this tournament, she will have to play her very best tennis to have a chance of beating her.
To avoid a Williams-dominated contest, Radwanska will need to play a clever game. Serena’s power is indomitable but, if she gets nervous (as she may do today), the errors begin to creep in. The American’s serve is her ace card so if Agniezska plays an excellent returning game she will create opportunities to open up the match; fail to do so and she will risk being played off the court. Her best chance of triumphing is to mix up her game – play a wide variety of shots and stop Serena falling into a rhythm. If she can do that she stands a chance of pulling off the biggest win of her career.