Originally written on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 7/5/12

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10: Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland looks on during an autograph session during day one of the 2010 Medibank International at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre on January 10, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Radwanska’s Keys to Victory:

1. Don’t let Serena set up- Here is the problem for Radwanska. She is a good all-court player who plays consistently and doesn’t make mistakes. She works her opponents around the court and makes them play shots they don’t want to play. And that’s great for her. It just got her to a Wimbledon final. But it is a style of play that Serena just eats alive. Radwanska has won a total of 8 games in her two matches against Serena. Even Martina Hingis, back when she was World #1 and seemed invincible playing her all-court game, had a losing record against Serena. And all of this is because Serena will take every ball early and just hit them back in places that Radwanska can’t do anything about. If Radwanska wants to have any chance here, she can’t let that happen. She needs every single one of her shots to be either very deep or very wide so that every shot Serena plays is an awkward one. Because as soon as Serena can play one of her normal rally shots the point will be over.

2. Attack the second serve- Sam Stosur, in last year’s US Open final, gave us the real blueprint to beating an in-form Serena Williams. Stosur hit a straight winner off of what felt like every single second serve of Serena’s. And that hurt Serena’s confidence and made her more protective of her first serve. Radwanska has nowhere near the power of Stosur and won’t be able to take very many second serves and hit big winners off of them. But she can hit them hard and put them in places from where she can take control of the rally. Serena’s serve has been massive and nearly untouchable all tournament. But if Radwanska can start consistently winning the majority of points off of Serena’s second serve she might be able to force Serena to take something off the first serve to avoid having to hit the second.

3. Hit the ball flatter- Radwanska is a very good retriever and can put a lot of balls back in play. But that’s not going to matter against Serena. She’s not going to draw out errors from Serena and once Serena takes control of a rally she will just continue to hit massive groundstrokes until she wins the point. Serena loves to play inside the baseline and take the ball very early. Radwanska cannot allow her to do that. She needs to force Serena back in some way. And that might mean hitting the ball harder than she’s used to. Radwanska usually hits with great depth, but that won’t help against Serena who can just hit massive winners even from a bit behind the baseline. Like we said in the first “key”, she needs to keep the ball either hard or wide. She has to force Serena to play from a position from where she can’t tee off on a massive groundstroke. This also means playing with less margin over the net because anything that bounces high will just sit up and Serena will kill it like a baseball batter on a hanging curveball (pardon the mixed sports metaphor).

4. Serve smart- Radwanska does not have such a big serve, which will be a very big problem against Serena. Serena loves to attack any weak ball and can hit winners off the return even against a lot of women’s first serves. I honestly don’t know what Radwanska can do to avoid this. She needs to mix up her serves so Serena can’t anticipate what’s coming. She needs to use wide serves to just put Serena in a position from where she can’t hit a huge shot. She needs to serve into the body sometimes to keep Serena off-balance, even though Serena can sometimes just take those serves for a winner. Most of all, she needs to do whatever it takes to keep Serena guessing and not let her take control of the rallies right off the return.

Serena’s Keys to Victory:

1. Just serve- That’s it. Serena just needs to serve the exact same way she’s been serving recently. Her serve has been huge. She has hit more aces this tournament than all but 1 of the men. The percentage of first serve points she wins is obscenely high. If she can just continue serving this big and with this much confidence, there’s not really anything that Radwanska, or any other woman, can do.

2. Attack- Serena has never had trouble with them before, but Radwanska is an all-court player and she will try to force Serena to run down a lot of balls and hit a lot of awkward shots. It really shouldn’t matter as Serena loves playing against that type of player, but I guess it is possible that having to play too many balls from awkward positions could get to Serena. She just needs to play her game, take the ball early, and hit it big like she always does. Radwanska can’t stop her if she does that.

3. Stay confident- Even for a player as good as Serena, confidence is a huge deal. We saw what can happen when Serena gets timid. She lost to Virginie Razzano in the first round of the French Open when she wasn’t confident. She had tough early matches here at Wimbledon against much worse players when she wasn’t confident. But when she was confident, she just beat two of the top 5 women in the world without much trouble. If she can just play the final at the same level as her last few matches, she will tie her sister Venus and win her fifth Wimbledon.

4. Attack the serve- When Serena gets into a rhythm on her return, they can be almost as dangerous as her serves are. If Serena can find that rhythm and can start attacking Radwanska’s serves consistently, and if Radwanska doesn’t stop her from doing that, then this match will be over very, very quickly.
Prediction: Serena in 2


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