Wimbledon 2015: Muguruza beats Radwanska to reach first Major final and top 10

Garbine Muguruza beats Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets to reach the Wimbledon final and crack the top 10 in the WTA rankings

If ever there was a case of a draw of two halves, the women’s semi-finals at the All England Club was it.

The top half was packed with Grand Slam champions, indeed seven of the nine active champions in the draw. Three of the four Wimbledon champions were also in the top half, so when No2 seed and defending champion Petra Kvitova fell in the third round, there were no Grand Slam champions in the bottom half at all.

So the two halves unfolded in very contrasting ways. At the top, the two most famous and most popular women in the draw, 20-time Major champion and world No1 Serena Williams and five-time Major champion and No4 Maria Sharapova, had taken all before them to reach their allotted spots and set up the latest in one of the most well-known rivalries in tennis.

At the bottom, it would be two women from the very heart of their respective quarters who emerged, one of them the WTA Fans’ Favourite for the last four years, No13 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, and the other a fresh face with an exciting game—and all the makings of a future Fans’ Favourite, No14 Garbine Muguruza.

Williams and Sharapova would face off later on this hot afternoon for the 20th time, with Sharapova trying to halt a run of 16 straight losses to her nemesis to claim her first victory since 2004.

But for many, the first semi-final was just as eagerly anticipated, for it brought together two contrasting styles and personalities, Murugurza in her first Grand Slam semi-final after reaching the French Open quarters last month, and Radwanska into her third semi here in the last four years—and a finalist in 2012 when she took the mighty Williams to three sets.

The two had played each other four times and shared the honours, but now they met on grass for the first time, a surface that would bring out the best in both games. Radwanska’s tennis is deft, nimble, packed with variety and slice and tactical smartness, Muguruza’s an all-court, athletic game of power and variety.

Radwanska, who reached No2 after that fine 2012 Wimbledon run, arrived on the grass after a disappointing season, but soon piled on the points in Nottingham, Eastbourne and now here, and all that assured her of a return to the top 10.

But the 21-year-old Muguruza was a woman on the rise, and would break new ground with at least a No14 ranking next week, and could break the top 10 should she beat Radwanska for the third time in a row.

She had already beaten the likes of Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki and Timea Bacsinszky to get here, the first Spanish woman to reach the Wimbledon semis in 15 years. This 6ft, extrovert young woman was full of confidence, too, with more big-name wins in Dubai earlier this year. She took Williams to three sets at the Australian Open last year and, even more notable, beat the No1 in straight sets at the French Open last year—a season that also saw her score wins over Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic.

And confidence poured from her racket in the opening set. She came out with all guns blazing, serving big, pounding her forehand to within inches of the baseline with flat power to both wings.

Radwanska could simply not contain her, and one of those big forehands converted break point in the very first game. She broke again in the fifth, and dominated the longest rally of the match so far to lead 5-1 before Radwanska managed to fend off two more break points to hold for 2-5.

The Pole was making no inroads on her opponent’s serve from the baseline, where she was pinned by the depth and pace of Muguruza, and managed just four winners to 12 by the Spaniard, who served out boldly to love, 6-2, having dropped just one points from 12 first serves.

When Muguruza repeated in the second set, breaking to lead 2-0, it looked ominous for Radwanska, but the smart Pole is a great problem-solver, and began to find ways to break up the rhythm and stem the intensity of the Spaniard, who obliged with a few more errors and a temporary halt in her winner count. Radwanska broke back for 3-3 and broke again in the eighth, serving out the set, 6-3, with only two errors to her name.

The third set, then, forced both to draw on their best, and it was compelling, crowd-pleasing stuff. Big serves, deep groundstrokes, lobs and counter-lobs, drops and chases—it had it all. They began with a break apiece, and Radwanska almost broke again with some great defensive play. But it would be the Spaniard who did break through with a big backhand drive volley, 4-2.

Radwanska battled to the bitter end, almost two hours, making only one unforced error in the third set, chipping and dinking shots to earn break points, but Muguruza was too strong, hitting a remarkable 39th winner for the best win of her career.

The Centre Court rose to cheer a new favourite here: She had thrilled and would afterwards charm them too, a welcome new star on Wimbledon’s stage—and to the world’s top-10.

Radwanska was gracious in defeat, and acknowledged that she had been beaten by the better player: “Very solid from beginning till the end. I tried everything I could today, but wasn’t enough.”

She was then asked if she could go on and win the title: her reply was revealing and frank: “I guess it’s going to be Serena. [Smiling] I don’t think she can beat Serena in the final. I think Serena’s not going to let her do that—no, not in this tournament. But I wish her luck. It’s going to be hard. If she do that? Big respect!”

There are few who would disagree her.

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