Since winning the title in 2008, Radwanska has not enjoyed much success at Eastbourne, posting just four wins in five visits. Saturday's draw opened up the possibility of another early exit, as she was paired with the mercurial Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, against whom she has enjoyed a number of tight encounters in recent years.
The Turning Point
This trend continued into their latest meeting, Pavlyuchenkova pinching a close opening set when Radwanska faltered on serve at 4-4. Stirred into life by this setback, Radwanska played a much more adventurous brand of tennis in the second, an approach that paid early dividends when she drew a backhand error to open up a 3-1 lead. The Russian had a chance to hit back immediately, but this slipped away and with it her chances of reeling in Radwanska.
There was little to separate the two in the decider, and with neither player creating much of an impression with their return game a tie-break beckoned. After over two hours spent absorbing Pavlyuchenkova's all-court assault, it was the Pole that wilted, a tired backhand bringing up three match points. She fired long on the first before closing out a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4) win when Radwanska coughed up an error on the next.
By The Numbers
In a high-quality encounter, both players showed a willingness to attack, with Radwanska hitting 31 winners and Pavlyuchenkova 41. Pavlyuchenkova was particularly aggressive behind her serve, making frequent forays into the net where she won 23 of the 30 points she contested there.
"Every time we play against each other it's such a tough match, but I'm happy that I finally pulled through, especially with such a close score," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I take it match by match, tomorrow is another day, so I can't relax after this one, for sure. It's grass, so it's never easy, but I'm very happy with my performance today.
"I feel great on grass. It's strange, because after the French Open I didn't hit at all because of my back issues. I just had a couple of practice sessions here - I feel fresh and was feeling good out there."