One of the favorites for the Australian Open title, Agnieszka Radwanska falls by the wayside in the second round. The two-time Australian Open semifinalist was stunned by 34-year old veteran Mirjana-Lucic Baroni, 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and three minutes in the Margaret Court Arena. Radwanska's struggles against hard-hitting players were evident in this contest.
The Croat was participating in the second round of the Australian Open for the first time since 1998. Two of the top four seeds in the women's singles have failed to advance past the third round as fourth seed Simona Halep lost to Shelby Rogers on Day One. Radwanska's usually consistent in Melbourne as she's reached the quarterfinals or better, six times in the last ten years.
Lucic-Baroni cruises in the first set
The third seed got off to a slow start with the world number 79 setting the tone of the match by displaying aggressive forehands, and Lucic-Baroni broke to 15 in the opening game of the match with a forehand unforced error in a seven-shot rally in the net from Radwanska.
However, the Pole would get the immediate break back to love with a forehand unforced error springing from Lucic-Baroni's racquet. For the third consecutive time in the match, neither player was able to hold onto their serve with the Croat breaking serve with a double fault from Radwanska to lead 2-1.
Furthermore, in the fourth game of the match, the former world number 32 opened the game with a good first serve out wide and forehand winner. The Croat continued to apply relentless pressure on Radwanska with booming forehands, and an ace down the T consolidated the break to lead 3-1. In the next game, the Pole held to love, as she was looking for the immediate break back in the next game.
In the sixth game, the third seed gained a 0-15 lead on Lucic-Baroni's serve by virtue of a forehand unforced error in the net, however, the Croat would claim the next two points with a forehand winner at the net, and a backhand winner, wrong-footing the former world number two. The Pole would apply pressure on the Croat with the former top 32 player causing a backhand unforced error in the net. However, a good serve down the middle and an ace out wide handed Lucic-Baroni a 4-2 lead.
Radwanska would hold her next service game to 30, and in the eighth game, the Croat out-foxed the Pole by placing a passing shot winner down the line with the third seed trying to be aggressive. A couple of punishing forehands, and another scintillating forehand winner in the corner, gave the 34-year-old a 5-3 lead in the opening set.
The third seed had the task of serving to stay in the opening set, and it proved to be a difficult one. Lucic-Baroni raced out to a 0-30 lead with two forehand winners but a forehand volley error at the net at the conclusion of a nine-shot rally got the game to 15-30. Furthermore, a crouch shot attempt sailed into the net and two set points were handed to the veteran. Two unforced errors gave Radwanska a temporary reprieve as she saved two set points getting the game level at deuce.
However, a scintillating forehand return winner down the line gave Lucic-Baroni a third set point. Nonetheless, a timely first serve out wide, saved the third set point, and the Pole got a game point with a drop shot, which the Croat retrieved but she played a sweet lob over her head. Nevertheless, the 34-year-old would claim the next two points with aggressive forehands and a forehand winner in the corner, created her fourth set point.
Again, another forehand unforced error from Lucic-Baroni allowed the Pole to save a fourth set point. Inevitably, the world number 79 was going to take the opening set with a forehand winner down the line and on her fifth set point, a forehand crosscourt winner sealed the opening set in just 31 minutes.
Lucic-Baroni completes the upset
The third seed would race out to a 15-40 lead on Lucic-Baroni's serve, and the Poland native took the break point at the second time of asking with a backhand unforced error missing the court. In the second game, three consecutive forehand and unforced errors from the Croat, along with a failed drop shot from Radwanska and an ace out wide allowed the Pole to consolidate the break and lead 2-0.
In the third game, it was important that the Croat would hold serve as a double break down would have been difficult for the former world number 32 to win this set. She began the game coming out on top in a 13-shot rally with a forehand winner in the corner, and she would hold serve with little trouble to keep the match at one break.
However, in the following game, Radwanska raced out to a commanding 30-0 lead but a smash winner at the net, followed by a return with authority got the game levelled at 30-30. A forehand unforced error out wide, allowed the Croat to get a break point, and she took it with aggressive forehands, forcing Radwanska to play a backhand error and got the break back at 2-2.
The third seed was looking to regain her break advantage, and she got a 15-30 lead on the Croat's serve with a forehand passing shot down the line with Lucic-Baroni stranded at the net. However, following a good serve out wide, Radwanska would get a break point by virtue of a smash at the net. A forehand winner with the Pole going the other way snuffed out the break point. An aggressive forehand winner in the corner, allowed Lucic-Baroni to win her third consecutive game and lead 3-2.
An uncharacteristic game from Radwanska in the sixth game, as she started the game with a double fault, followed by a forehand winner at the net from Lucic-Baroni, a backhand winner, and a good return, forcing the error from the Pole, gave the Croat her fourth consecutive game to lead 4-2.
The finishing line was in sight as Lucic-Baroni won 10 consecutive points and she held to love with a backhand unforced error, springing from Radwanska's racquet.
The third seed had to serve to stay in the match, and she started the game with a service winner, however, a double fault, followed by a forehand winner and backhand winner down the line handed Lucic-Baroni, her first match point. A service winner out wide, served the first but the Croat played a backhand crosscourt winner, to upset the two-time semifinalist, 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and three minutes.
The 34-year-old produced an impressive 33 winners, and committed 20 unforced errors, in contrast to Radwanska, who only produced eight winners and eight unforced errors. Lucic-Baroni got an impressive 65 percent of her first serves in and won 71 percent of the points on her first serve. The Pole struggled to win points on her second serve, only winning 30 per cent.
A golden opportunity in the third round
Lucic-Baroni will be competing in the third round of the Australian Open for the first time in her career. The Croat won her first match since 1998 in Melbourne. However, she was absent from the tournament from 2001-2010 and failed to qualify in 2012. She will be competing in the third round of a Slam for the first time since the French Open in 2015, and she will play Maria Sakkari in the third round for a chance to reach the fourth round in Melbourne.