July 7, 2012 in Sports

Williams seems to be at peak heading into final

Steven Wine Associated Press
 

WIMBLEDON, England – More than once during the past fortnight, Serena Williams has won an important point at Wimbledon and then returned to the baseline, her clenched fist leading the way.

The ferocity of the gesture is understandable, given the obstacles she has beaten back in the past couple of years.

A succession of health issues led to a long layoff that forced Williams to mount a career comeback, and she’ll try to cap it today when she plays Agnieszka Radwanska, the first Polish player to reach a Grand Slam final since 1939.

Williams seeks her 14th major title, and would tie her sister Venus with a fifth win at Wimbledon.

“I’m so happy to be playing,” she said. “I’ve been through so much in the past year or two years, it has been unbelievable.”

This week Radwanska has been ailing herself, battling an upper respiratory illness that makes it difficult to speak and forced her to cancel a news conference Friday.

“I will do whatever it takes to make sure I’m ready to play the best I can,” she said.

While the No. 3-ranked Radwanska seeks to become Poland’s first Grand Slam winner, the No. 6-ranked Williams has a shot at her first major championship since Wimbledon in 2010.

After scares in the third and fourth rounds, Williams has lately been close to her absolute best. She eliminated defending champion Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals, then defeated reigning Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka on Thursday, winning both times in straight sets.

“It’s a different Serena we see now,” said 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert, an analyst for ESPN. “We haven’t seen Serena play as well as she has these last two matches since before she hurt her foot. She has great power and movement, and the confidence she needs.”

As has often been the case with Williams, her play improved as the opposition became more formidable.

She’s a big favorite against Radwanska.

“Serena’s playing amazing tennis,” Radwanska said. “I don’t really have much to lose, so I’m going to try my best and we’ll see.”

Williams has 85 service aces in the tourney, four shy of the record she set in 2010. Her serve success today will a key factor in the outcome.

“The championship is Serena’s to win or lose,” Evert said. “She controls every point with her power.”

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