By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Agnieszka Radwanska was overwhelmed after picking up the Eastbourne title, her third this season (Istanbul and Thailand), at the expense of Russian Nadia Petrova 6-4 7-6 6-4 win in two hours and 37 minutes.
The talented teenager had to wipe away her tears when presented with the unsponsored International Women’s Open trophy, which lifts her to a career-high of world no11 when the WTA Tour rankings are revealed.
And on Monday the no4 seed will return to grass when she takes on Czech ace Iveta Benesova at Wimbledon.
Radwanska, the 2005 Junior Wimbledon champion, admitted:
“I was emotional out there as I’ve played so many tough matches in the last week and today’s final was the most difficult one here.
“When you are winning it is great and the money comes along, but you cannot stop playing – even as tired as I am – if you want to achieve your goals.
“I’m happy for my mother and my father Robert, who is also my coach, when I play in matches like this he is even more nervous than me.”
Although both players needed treatment for injuries during the final in hot and sunny Centre Court, the 19-year-old was swifter around the courts than the Bulgaria-based opponent seven years older.
With such a strong field at Devonshire Park, neither of these players were expected to get to this stage – especially after narrow victories.
Ana Ivanovic, the world no1, withdrew at the last minute but her replacement Svetlana Kuznetsova made an early exit with her first match of the grass court season.
Former Wimbledon champions Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport, as expected, swiftly moved on to the practice courts at SW19 claiming injury during their brief appearance at Eastbourne.
Petrova, who retired injured in last year’s Eastbourne semi-final against Mauresmo, had her right knee heavily strapped up and at times looked way beyond her best with a flare-up of a hip injury adding to her woes and denying the Russian her maiden grass court title.
The Centre Court crowd saw the opening 10 points slugged out with heavy groundstrokes, each going with serve.
With the two heavyweights soon sizing each other’s game plan up the contest moved up through the gears with five breaks of seven over the next seven games, Radwanska winning three games to draw first blood and take the opening set.
Petrova, one of seven Russians in the main draw, started turning the screw and added precision to deep shots. After the pair swapped one service break each, the final moved into a tie-break that just never looked as though it would end.
Radwanska fluffed three match points before Petrova levelled matters 13-11, and then required a lengthy break for medical attention during which she was cautioned for blatant coaching advice from the stands.
Petrova looked comfortable in the decisive set but after taking a 2-1 advantage Radwanska needed medical treatment for cramp. The Russian’s game fell apart in the ninth game, put a simple close-range lob into the net followed by a mis-hit lob and a dreadful forehand shot to hand Radwanska the initiative.
Petrova, who had pressed the self-destruct button, did manage to stave off four championship points before bowing out with a mistimed backhand that flew into the net.
Petrova but a brave face on and explained:
“I was doing OK and in with a chance of victory until some awful mistakes in that ninth game in the third set – I don’t know where they came from.”