WTA Indian Wells: Serena Advances To Her First Final In The Desert In Fifteen Years After Beating Radwanska

Serena Williams advanced to her first BNP Paribas Open final since 2001 as she took the court against soon-to-be world number two, Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 7-6(1).

World Number One Withholds Early Shakiness

This semifinal encounter was the tenth meeting between the pair, as the world number one led Radwanska nine wins to none. The match began on the racquet of Serena, but the Pole was early to break in the opening game. Radwanska then settled in and consolidated with an ace to seal her hold. Down 2-0, early signs of frustration from the American fired her up to earn her first hold. This year’s Shenzhen Open champion wasted zero time to vault herself to a two-game lead over a player she had failed to win more than one set against in their previous 19 sets. Each player displayed huge forehands and their willingness to move forward early on.

The American was in danger of going down a double-break as she served down 3-1. The Krakow, Poland native failed to take one of her three opportunities in the fifth game to break the world number one for the second time. The craftiness of Radwanska was not enough to match last year’s semifinalist’s power and suddenly the opening set was even at four games all. The streak of games continued for Serena and her Polish opponent went from being points away from a double-break lead to having to serve to stay in the set. The number one seed wrapped up the first set in 40 minutes after blistering a second serve return down the line.

Serena Williams hits a forehand./Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Serena Williams hits a forehand./Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Second Set Momentum Shifts

The dominance of Serena’s groundstrokes vaulted her to hold at love to open the second set. The match seemed out of Radwanska’s reach as she was down 3-0. The 2001 champion had won 13 straight points and the 2012 Wimbledon finalist began to be desperate to even win a point. But she had saved a match point in her first match, so a potential comeback from the Pole would not be surprising.

As expected, Agnieszka Radwanska embarked on a comeback, as she took her first game since leading 4-2 in the first set. Before the two-time champion knew it, her crafty opponent had squared the match to 3-3. But Serena Williams performs best during times of pressure and a love hold of service put her within two games of her first final in the desert in 15 years.

Back-to-back holds applied pressure to the 27-year-old because she served to stay in the match, down 6-4, 5-4. But the consistent and agile Radwanska came up strong with well-placed shots to tie the set. Despite breaking arguably the best server in the history of women’s tennis at  5-5, the 2015 WTA Finals champion could not cross the finish line when serving for the second set. The set tiebreaker was extremely one-sided in the favor of Serena as she took the tiebreak seven points to one, which ultimately ended the match. The 6-4, 7-6(1) match was concluded in an hour and 35 minutes, ending Radwanska’s impressive run to the semifinals.

What Is Next?

Serena Williams will play for her 70th career title on Sunday. She will face Victoria Azarenka who defeated Karolina Pliskova in the other semifinal. The American maintains a winning record over her, but the recent form of the Belarusian could cause trouble for the world number one. As for Agnieszka Radwanska, she is expected to rise to number two in the world and will carry confidence heading into the Miami Open next week.