2013 Apia International Sydney champion Agnieszka Radwanska will be hoping that 2017 is the year, that she can finally claim her first Grand Slam singles title. The Pole has been a two-time semifinalist at the Australian Open in 2014 and 2016 losing to the eventual runner-ups Dominika Cibulkova and Serena Williams. However, Radwanska at 27 still has time on her side, and she can look at Angelique Kerber as the perfect example of still believing that you can win a Slam.
At the age of 30, Barbora Strycova continues to rise up the rankings, and by virtue of reaching the semifinals in Sydney, the Czech will be ranked inside the top 16 for the first time in her career. The bronze doubles medalist wears her heart on her sleeve in matches and she is a tricky opponent for many players to play against on tour.
Radwanska's route to the semifinals
The Pole swiftly put the disappointment behind her of reaching the quarterfinals at the Shenzhen Open losing to eventual finalist Alison Riske in three sets, in a match which she should be winning, nevertheless, the 2013 champion received a bye in the first round, and she defeated Christina McHale, 7-6 (1), 6-1 to book her place in the quarterfinals. For the second consecutive week, the second seed was up against Ying-Ying Duan but it was a three-set battle in Shenzhen, and this time, Radwanska had an easier time by defeating the Chinese qualifier, 6-3, 6-2 to book her place in the semifinals against Strycova.
Strycova's route to the semifinals
The Czech number three has had a tough draw to navigate through, as the world number 19 began her campaign in Sydney against two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova, and Strycova came through the match against the tricky Russian in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5. Moreover, Strycova's second round victory over ninth seed and 2015 US Open finalist Roberta Vinci was emphatic, recording a 6-2, 6-3 victory over the Italian. In the quarterfinals, Strycova was paired up with former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, who is ranked one spot below her in the rankings and in 3 hours and 20 minutes, the Czech overcame Wozniacki in a war of attrition, coming out on top, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-4 for her third victory in seven meetings over the Dane.
Radwanska and Strycova have met on five occasions, and the second seed has a flawless 5-0 head-to-head record over Strycova with their meetings predominantly taking place on hard courts and once on a clay court.
The pair first met on the WTA Tour in the second round of the Miami Open in 2011 with the former world number two thrashing Strycova, 6-1, 6-0, and they met later on that year in the first round at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford with Radwanska dishing out another thrashing, 6-1, 6-2. The pair met three years later at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal and for the third consecutive meeting, Radwanska defeated the Czech in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
However, their fourth encounter and first meeting on clay required three sets in the third round of the French Open, and the duo played an unbelievable rally when they were on the ground, Radwanska was able to weather the storm, prevailing 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-2. Their closest meeting to date was last fall on the hard courts in Tokyo with the former world number two coming out on top, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
Who reaches the final?
Radwanska will be looking to win the title in Sydney for the second time in her career, and the world number three will be hoping for another strong run in Melbourne, as the Pole has the game to win a Grand Slam on hard court but just can't seem to get over the line. Radwanska's best chances to date to win a Grand Slam was at Wimbledon in 2013 when she reached the semifinal but what was significant about it was that Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, players who have given her trouble in the past, all fell by the wayside before the quarterfinals. Furthermore, a similar scenario arose at the Australian Open three years ago, Radwanska ended the reign of two-time defending Australian Open champion Azarenka in the quarterfinals, and Serena Williams and Sharapova were both beaten in the fourth round, however, Radwanska was unable to capitalise on that opportunity, and she was thrashed by Sharapova's conqueror Dominika Cibulkova in the semifinals. Nonetheless, Radwanska still has the credentials to win a Grand Slam title.
Meanwhile, Strycova will be full of confidence after defeating three tricky opponents to reach the semifinals, moreover, Strycova has been unable to beat Radwanska in the past but she certainly has the game to do it. The feisty Czech will need to serve well, and her forehand is a dangerous weapon, when it is firing on all cylinders. Radwanska hasn't got the strongest serve in the women's game, therefore, there will be plenty of chances for Strycova to break the Pole's serve. However, Radwanska's creativity on the court makes it difficult for her opponent's to play against her, as the Pole mixes up her play by throwing in drop shots and both players are comfortable at the net.
This is the first of the two women's semifinals scheduled in the Ken Rosewall Arena on Thursday at not before 4 pm local time, and the winner of this match will face sixth seed Johanna Konta or 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard in the final.
Prediction: Radwanska in three sets