By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska has always had a reputation for being one of the hardest tennis players to finish off and she added to that impression by reaching the WTA Finals title decider in trademark fashion on Saturday.
Radwanska faced in-form Spaniard Garbine Muguruza and, with shoulder and thigh taped up, battled through an engaging contest using supreme court coverage and clever shot-making to recover from a set down and prevail 6-7(5) 6-3 7-5.
When the 26-year-old Pole was trailing 5-1 in a first-set tie-breaker against top seed Simona Halep on Thursday, having lost her opening two matches, a first final at the end-of-season championship looked like a pipe dream.
She came off the canvas, however, to stun the Romanian with a 7-6(5) 6-1 victory to deliver the straight-sets win she needed and then watched as Maria Sharapova beat Flavia Pennetta in two sets to send her through to the last four courtesy of sets won.
“I think the tiebreaker, especially from 5-1 down, … was the set that really pushed me to win that whole match against Simona,” Radwanska told reporters on Saturday.
“And of course a little bit of luck that Maria won that match in the afternoon that makes me go to the semi-finals. It’s the only tournament that everything can change around.
“So that was I think (a) big moment. I just took my chance. I’m in the final for the first time, I didn’t really expect to be in the semis after the first losses and now it’s the final.
“(Today) was a really big match, a lot of emotion during that match, I think all three hours. I’m just so relieved that it’s over and I could win.”
Radwanska could face Sharapova, who beat her 4-6 6-3 6-4 in red-group play, or double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the final of the eight-woman championship on Sunday.
Just competing in Singapore at a seventh WTA Finals seemed an unattainable ambition when she was beaten in the first round of the French Open in May by Germany’s Annika Beck.
A semi-final showing at Wimbledon put her back on track and she followed up a Tokyo title with her 16th career tournament win in China this month to book a spot in Singapore.
“The first couple of months (of the season) was really tough and (I) definitely didn’t expect to be sitting right here now before the final,” Radwanska said.
“I think everything changed from the grasscourt season pretty much. I was playing much better, more confident on court, feeling much better on court. I think that helps me a lot, winning good matches, tight matches.
“I think in important moments I’m making the good decision and the right shots, and that’s why I’m here.”
(Editing by Clare Fallon)