Aga Survives Sloane, Bencic Reaches Maiden Premier Final on Wozniacki Retirement at Eastbourne
Elliot Cornish for Tennis Atlantic
Agnieszka Radwanska survived a fightback from Sloane Stephens to return to the final of the Aegon International in Eastbourne, a tournament she won in 2008.
The Pole will face Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic – who reached her first WTA Premier final – after her opponent, Caroline Wozniacki, was forced to pull out of their semi-final due to a back injury while trailing 3-0 in the first set.
In what had up until now been a comfortable week for Radwanska – she had not lost more than two games in any set she played – a similar story looked to be unfolding on Centre Court on Friday as she won five consecutive games after saving six break points in her second service game, to take the opening set 6-1.
The American settled into the match after falling behind and moved into a 3-1 lead in the second, but she immediately surrendered her advantage and was then broken to love at 5-5. However, Radwanska was unable to serve out the match, sending the set into a tiebreak, which Stephens won 7-3.
Refinding her groove, the Polish ninth seed broke at her first attempt in the final set but was pegged back as Stephens capitalised on an opening in the fifth game. A sloppy service game featuring a double fault and some wayward groundstrokes allowed Radwanska to restore a two-game gap at 4-2.
Despite continuing to look dangerous at times, the American couldn’t keep up a high enough level to consistently threaten and was broken for a third time in the set as Radwanska completed a 6-1 6-7(3) 6-2 victory in exactly two hours.
“It’s always tough to play someone for the first time,” said the Pole. “She is very talented and she’s had a great season so far. I will the first few games and see what to do after that.
“I will be extra motivated because I never win the same tournament twice so I will try extra hard to win. I wake in the morning and I just want to win,” Radwanska said.
While Radwanska had to struggle, Bencic received an easy pass into her second WTA final of the month, having to play only three games before Wozniacki withdrew.
She said: “It’s like a dream come true. I’m very happy about it when I can face those players.
“It’s a very good tournament for me. I’ve played a lot of good matches. I’m very happy about it.”
Meanwhile, Wozniacki does not expect that the back injury will hinder during Wimbledon which begins next week, commenting: “Normally my body is very receptive to treatment, so hopefully I’m going to fine in a couple of days.”
Radwanska will be appearing in her first final of the season after enduring a listless few months while Bencic is set to play in the third WTA final of her career – she has lost both of her previous encounters.
The former has excelled on the grass, however. Radwanska reached the semi-finals in Nottingham and did not drop a set until the last four in Eastbourne. Bencic has also been strong, being tested only by Britain’s Johanna Konta in a week where she also knocked out the defending champion, Madison Keys.
Radwanska has so far compensated for her lack of power with some crafty play, making good use of the slice throughout the week. In Bencic, she is up against another attacking player who will look to assert control. How the Pole counters that, and whether she can force the young Swiss to play the extra shot could be the determining factor of the match.
Top seeds Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza were beaten in straight sets in the semi-finals of the women’s doubles tournament, falling to the pairing of Caroline Garcia/Katarina Srebotnik 7-5 6-4 in the first match of the day.
They will take on Yung-jan Chan/Jie Zheng in Saturday’s final after the Russian team of Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina pulled out due to Makarova’s abdominal strain injury.