Maybe Agnieszka Radwanska should come into the Australian Open with no match practice every year. In yet another remarkable comeback for the 12th seed, the Pole fought off two match points and put down Shuai Peng 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 to gain her second quarterfinal at the Australian Open.
That the wily 21-year-old has been able to win four straight matches in her first tournament back since undergoing foot surgery in October is incredible, especially given that when she came to Melbourne to practice just prior to the event, she wasn't even sure until the day before the draw ceremony that she'd be able to play.
But Radwanska is more driven that she appears outwardly and it showed against the ambitious Peng, as after letting go of a 3-1 lead in the third set, she stormed back from a 5-3 deficit and took the last four games.
Peng served for the match at 5-4, but Radwanska fought off a match point with a precise forehand volley winner and then on Peng's second match point, she charged the net again and nailed an overhead, forcing her foe into a backhand error.
While Radwanska isn't tall and is fairly slight, she has can bear down and close and did so in the final game, ripping a backhand crosscourt winner to gain her first match point. Peng, who was playing in her first Grand Slam round of 16, nailed a forehand winner to fend it off, but the Pole gained another and forced the Chinese into a backhand winner for the victory.
After she underwent foot surgery, former world No.8 Radwanska was told by the doctor that it was likely that she wouldn't be able to return until the Miami tournament in late March. But she badly wanted to play the Australian Open and when her doctor gave her a 1 percent chance to play she responded, "If you give me a 1 percent to play in January, I'm going to play."
"The worst thing for a player is to miss a Grand Slam and I didn't not want to watch the Australian Open from home on TV," she said. "I wouldn't be able to stand that."
When Vera Zvonareva and Iveta Benesova met in the second round of Australian Open 2010, the gap between them looked huge. The Russian who would go on to finish the year at No.2 in the world just outpowered her opponent, allowing her a mere 3 games.
A year later, the 27-year-old Czech lefty played her first career Grand Slam round of 16. Ranked No.60 in the world, she was the lowest-ranked player left in the women's draw. And, after struggling to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the previous round, Benesova was ready to confirm her Grand Slam breakthrough, and make her way into the quarter-finals.
But before she knew it, on a lively Hisense Arena, she was down 2-0 against a Zvonareva who merely kept the the ball in play and waited for the mistake. Making her way into the match quietly but surely, Benesova began distributing her smooth groundstrokes with more accuracy, and retrieving everything. Visibly frustrated, Zvonareva began to look impatient, too eager to force her game on her opponent. Quickly she lost the next four games as Benesova found some beautiful angles. "I though I was a little bit slow and a little bit passive at that time" Zvonareva said later.
Little did anyone expect the Russian to breeze through the rest of the match dropping just one game. Yet, this is what happened. Serving much better as the match went on, Zvonareva became more alert, imposing on her opponent the pace and depth which led her to world No.2. Benesova just couldn't sustain the rhythm, and often she found herself two metres from the ball. Zvonareva captured the set 6-4 after 40 minutes on a beautiful winning inside out forehand.
Beaming with confidence, she broke in the fourth and sixth games of the second set. But although hardly threatened on serve, she had to save two break points serving at 5-1, before concluding the match with yet another forehand winner on her second match point, after an hour and 16 minutes of play.