Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2008 Eastbourne champion and 2012 Wimbledon runner-up, scraped into the final with a far from polished display to see off elegant Sloane Stephens in three sets.
The Polish ace’s visit to Eastbourne has proved extremely profitable, and not just just from a financial aspect, as she dissected Stephens with an array of formidable shots to triumph 6-1 6-7(3) 6-2 in exactly two hours.
The opening set started off full of promise with the opening four games very tight, but with Radwanska edging into a 3-1 lead there was no stopping the Pole who raced away to seal the advantage in 35 minutes.
Stephens bounced back to secure her service game without dropping a point to take a second set lead but then lost the next game to love and appeared to be in trouble trailing 30-0 on her serve but then reeled off the next four games by outmanoeuvring her opponent for a deserved 2-1 lead.
One break of serve each left them all square and the American got her nose ahead on her serve to make it 4-3 but gave away two needless points, by lacking the killer instinct at the net and serving a double fault.
Games continued to go with serve, Stephens – as usual – looking fed up on Court, until she dropped her serve with a poor game that included a simple overhead smash that missed the target.
Radwanska, gifted the lead, and serving for the match was pinned to the baseline by Stephens’ deep groundstrokes lost her nerve and punished for playing cautiously to be forced into a tie-break that she dropped 7-3. Stephens’ stinging shot to Radwanska’s backhand squaring matters.
Radwanska soared into a three game lead and with such a comfortable cushion, despite Stephens taking control at net from time, stuck to guns and played percentage tennis from the baseline.
Serving to stay in for the match at 5-2, Stephens battled but failed to ignite the same quality of shots that she had earlier and failed in her bid to progress.
And Radwanska, who has made a habit of thrashing opponents on the Eastbourne grass this week, started off by being superior in every department against the American before losing her confidence.
|Agnieszka Radwanska||Sloane Stephens|
|1st SERVE %||70/96 (73%)||58/87 (67%)|
|1st SERVE POINTS WON||47/70 (67%)||33/58 (57%)|
|2nd SERVE POINTS WON||11/26 (42%)||11/29 (38%)|
|BREAK POINTS WON||7/15 (47%)||3/15 (20%)|
|TOTAL RETURN POINTS WON||43/87 (49%)||38/96 (40%)|
|TOTAL POINTS WON||101/183 (55%)||82/183 (45%)|
For Radwanska, competing in her second successive grass court semi-final, appeared to have learnt from the tennis lesson that she was surprisingly given by being handed a shock defeat by Romania’s Monica Niculescu in the Nottingham Open.
Sloane Stephens, who advanced to her place in the last four had an easy week until coming a cropper against Radwanska.
She accounted for seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, whose game on grass is mediocre at best, followed by a straightforward success over out-of-sorts British #1 Heather Watson before being given a walkover against ‘Lucky Loser’ Daria Gavrilova.
Australia-based Russian Gavrilova cited a reoccurrence of an abdominal injury that saw her exit last month’s French Open in tears. But rumours were rife and flying around, including whether she was prompted to not embarrass the tournament – nor upset other players – by going on to claim the crown.
And the world #41 would probably have not given Radwanska any more of a match.
But Stephens won’t worry about whatever the reasons were as she was able to get some grass court practice under the spotlight before Wimbledon where she reached the quarter-finals two years ago.
She was denied her first career WTA Tour final by suffering her fourth defeat to Radwanska, who has unquestionably been the in-form player of the tournament.
Radwanska, the world #13, stopped the rot of her dismal run of three opening match defeats at Eastbourne and is on a revival from a torrid opening half of the season that should lift her back into the world’s top 10. Roll on the final and Wimbledon for rejuvenated Radwanska.
Radwanska said: “I’m very happy to be in this final again, it’s been a long time since 2008. Today it was so tough with the wind. It’s the worst thing for players. It was a struggle form start to finish.
“The final is going to be interesting but there is more pressure on my side. This is a final we both want to win and we are going to fight the same for each ball, game by game, and we will see who is better tomorrow.”