Agnieszka Radwanska put on a returning clinic in her second round victory over Monica Niculescu, dominating the Romanian’s serve in her 6-2, 6-1 victory on Sunday afternoon at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Radwanska Wins Returners Battle in Opener
Neither player was particularly strong on serve in the opening set, turning the match into a returning battle early. Returning battles are the exactly the kind of matches third seed Agnieszka Radwanska loves to play. Niculescu actually held more break points on the Pole’s serve in the opening set, holding the slight edge five to four. However, Radwanska did a better job of defending her serve when it mattered most, saving the four of the five break points she faced.
Getting the job done on serve, Radwanska was able to focus on what she does best: frustrating opponents with her strong return of serve. And that’s exactly what she did. She converted three of her four break points, including one when Niculescu was serving to stay in the set to clinch the opener 6-2. In the opening set, the 32nd seed only won eight of 22 points on her own serve.
Improved Serving Sends Radwanska Through
Niculescu had put up a fight in the opening set. A few more points her way and she could have claimed the set for herself. But losing the set seemed to completely crush her momentum. It took no time at all for Radwanska to break and race to a 3-0 lead. At 0-3, 15-40, Niculescu had only won three points in the set and was facing a double-break deficit. However, the Romanian started to rally and managed to save both break points. But the comeback fell short, as Radwanska would bring up another break point and covert for the 4-0 lead.
The Romanian finally got on the board down 5-1, but would be hard-pressed to stay alive as Radwanska served for the match. Through her first three service games, the third seed had only lost one point on serve. However, Niculescu managed to put up a fight in the final game. She forced the game to deuce and saved a pair of match points before the Pole finally closed out the win at her third time of asking, claiming victory in an hour and 27 minutes.
By the Numbers
Neither player served particularly well in the match. Radwanska managed four aces and won 61% of her first serve points and 65% of second serve points, although she only hit 49% of her first serves in. Her numbers were bolstered by a strong second set after struggling on serve in the first set. The Pole did not allow a break point in the second set after saving four of five in the first set.
Niculescu’s serve was picked apart by her Polish opponent. She only won 39% of her first serve points and 46% of her second serve points. She was broken five times, three times in the first set and twice in the second set, out of eleven opportunities.