London: Serena Williams insists she will have to deliver the performance of a lifetime to win her fifth Wimbledon title against Agnieszka Radwanska in Saturday’s final.
Williams is widely expected to overpower Radwanska in her seventh Wimbledon final after the American served up a masterclass during a 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) semi-final victory over world No 2 Victoria Azarenka on Thursday.
Azarenka is the reigning Australian Open champion and one of the more powerful stroke-makers on the women’s tour, but even the Belarusian could do nothing to avoid being battered into submission as Serena hammered down a record 24 aces.
Serena served more aces in one set against Azarenka than Radwanska has managed in the entire tournament.
That formidable weapon combined with her wealth of experience — this is Serena’s 18th Grand Slam final but the first for Radwanska — make it easy to see why the sixth seed is heavily favoured to clinch her 14th major title.
But Serena, the first 30-year-old to reach the Wimbledon final since Steffi Graf in 1999, has too much respect for Polish third seed Radwanska to be drawn into the hype that has her already crowned champion.
“Radwanska has been playing well. She’s been consistent this year, more consistent than I have,” Serena said.
“That tells me I really need to go out there and be ready to hit a lot of shots and be ready to play hard.
“She has great hands and she does everything so well. If I come out flat, I won’t win.”
Serena has hit a total of 85 aces in the tournament which would put her into second place on the men’s list where only Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber has notched more with 98.
But Radwanska, who beat Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-4 to become the first Polish Grand Slam finalist for 73 years, is a superb counter-puncher capable of extending rallies long enough to force crucial errors.
With that in mind, Serena believes just relying on her serve would be too one-dimensional against an opponent as cunning as Radwanska.
“I think if I try to do too much overpowering I can be led to a lot of errors, so I don’t know about that,” she said.
“I think my biggest challenge is Agnieszka is really good at everything. She has unbelievable hands. She’s running every ball down.
“It’s going to be challenging. It’s not easy at all. She’s already ranked ahead of me, so I think it will be a really good match.”
While victory for Serena would deliver a first Grand Slam title since 2010 and end talk that she is a fading force, Radwanska has plenty of motivation to upset the odds.
The 23-year-old will leave the All England Club as both Wimbledon champion and the newly crowned world No 1 if she wins.
She knows it will take a herculean effort.
The 23-year-old’s only previous meetings with Williams both came in 2008 and a pair of chastening defeats, including a 6-4, 6-0 savaging in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, have left an indelible impression.
“I played Serena a couple of times. It’s always tough,” Radwanska said.
“She’s a very tough opponent and she’s hitting the ball very well. Of course she’s playing great tennis on the grass.”
But, regardless of the danger posed by Serena, Radwanska knows she can go for broke as the underdog.
“I don’t really have anything to lose, so I’m just going to try my best,” she said.
“Every player is different and every match is different. Most of the players are very powerful nowadays. I’m just going to try to mix it up.”
Radwanska already knows what it feels like to lift a trophy at Wimbledon after winning the junior title in 2005 and would love to experience the same sensation on a much grander stage this weekend.
“That would be great. It was seven years ago but only feels like one,” she said.
“Of course I will do everything in my power to hold the trophy again.”