IW Sunday: Flavia's Final Challenge
Published March 15, 2014 12:14
 Agnieszka Radwanska (POL #3) vs.  Flavia Pennetta (ITA #21)
Head-to-head: Radwanska leads 4-2
Twelve months ago, Flavia Pennetta was knocked out in the first round of Indian Wells by compatriot Francesca Schiavone. It was her third loss in four matches since returning from a career-threatening wrist injury and led to some serious soul searching.
Earlier this week, Pennetta revealed that this struggle to recapture her best form had driven her "very close" to retirement, before a second half of the season revival, highlighted by runs to the fourth round and semifinals at Wimbledon and the US Open, nipped such thoughts in the bud.
And the Italian has carried this momentum through to 2014, reaching the quarterfinals at first the Australian Open, then Dubai and now progressing to the biggest final of her career. If she is to complete the turnaround with a title, though, she will have to solve the riddle that is Agnieszka Radwanska.
In the modern, power-dominated game, Radwanska has defied the odds to flourish with her anachronistic style, which relies more on guile than brute force; on Sunday, she is bidding to add a third Premier Mandatory trophy to her collection, having also won Beijing in 2011 and Miami in 2012. Her full repertoire of shots was on display against Simona Halep in the semifinals, who she ran ragged for two high-quality sets.
Not that this is likely to intimidate Pennetta. Just last month, in Dubai, Pennetta defeated the Pole in straight sets and she has had to negotiate a daunting path to the final that has included Samantha Stosur, Sloane Stephens and top seed Li Na.
Radwanska: "Of course, I'm very happy to reach the final for the first time here. It's like a Grand Slam here - big draw, playing a lot of matches - and I've played well all tournament and now I'm ready for the final. She's in the final, so she's playing great tennis, but I'm looking forward to playing her and having revenge for Dubai."
Pennetta: "I'm surprised. At the beginning of the week if you told me, 'You're going to make the final here', I would have said, 'Mmmm, I don't think so!' I'm really happy with my game. I have to be really aggressive [against Radwanska]. I have to go for winners but not rush too much because she's a wall. I have to make seven times the winners against her. But I played really well in Dubai against her, so I hope to play in the same way."