TOKYO, Japan - There's not much a player can do when their opponent hits 20 winners to just four unforced errors - and that's what Agnieszka Radwanska did at the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Friday, needing just 59 minutes to drop a 61 61 loss on Angelique Kerber and return to the final of the Premier event.
The No.3-seeded Radwanska was at her absolute best against one of the most solid players on the WTA this year, not just playing rock solid defense but hitting winners all over the place - crosscourt, down the line, aces, volleys, drop shots - and eventually it was too much for the No.5-seeded Kerber, who hit a backhand wide on match point No.4, her 32nd unforced error of the match.
"We've played a couple of times before and it has always been tough, and even though today was 61 61 it was tough as well, and I had to run a lot," Radwanska said. "She's a very smart player and mixes up a lot of shots, so I had to stay focused from beginning to end. I'm very happy I could play my best today."
And on the drop shots return winners late in the match? "It was such a long game, so I thought I'd try something different," Radwanska said with her trademark smile. "It was working, so I was really happy about that!"
"My game plan was to be aggressive, but Agnieszka was playing very well and bringing every ball back like a ball machine," Kerber said. "I fought until the last point but unfortunately it didn't work out for me today. She played too well."
Radwanska recorded her 55th match win of a breakthrough year, the third most on the WTA this year after Kerber (58) and Victoria Azarenka (56).
The win also meant Radwanska will hold onto her No.3 ranking come Monday - if she lost Friday, Serena Williams would have switched spots with her.
Last year, Radwanska came off a second round loss at the US Open (to Kerber) and completely dominated the Asian Premier fortnight, winning Tokyo and Beijing in back-to-back weeks; this year she had another early loss at the US Open but is now on fire - could this be history repeating for her?
Radwanska leads Petrova in their head-to-head, 3-1, but two of the three Radwanska wins were by razor thin margins (including a 16 75 60 win where Petrova led 61 30) and Petrova's win came here in Tokyo. But above everything, all of those meetings came four years ago during the 2008 season.
"Nadia has been playing great tennis the whole week," the World No.3 said. "First of all I'm very, very happy I could reach the final and fight for the title again. I'll try my best - it's the final, the most important match of the week."