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Agnieszka Radwanska

 

Dominika Cibulkova cried after her loss to Agnieszka Radwanska in the final of the Apia International Sydney tournament last year.

It was little wonder; the Slovak’s 6-0 6-0 loss to Radwanska in that brutal decider was, as one television commentator put it, like watching your daughter forget all her lines on the opening night of the school play.

It took Radwanska’s head-to-head record against Cibulkova to 4-0, and was the third match in which she’d administered a 6-0 beating to her beleaguered opponent.

Which is what made Cibulkova’s victory over the Pole in the final of Stanford event later in 2013 all the more impressive. Dropping the first set, she roared back to win in three, an affirming victory against her nemesis.

The two women are now set to clash in the semifinals of Australian Open 2014, after both recorded comprehensive victories over their respective opponents on a sunny Wednesday at Rod Laver Arena.

Cibulkova bullied 11th seed Simona Halep about the court in a commanding 6-3 6-0 performance, her power – belying her short (161cm) stature – off her forehand wing in particular paying dividends.

The win sends her into her second career major semifinal; the last came back when she was a 20-year-old, at Roland Garros in 2009.

And in addition to that, Cibulkova will also be taking confidence from the knowledge that the crafty Pole is beatable.

“I needed something like that,” she said of her victory over Radwanska in California.

“It just gives me enough confidence to go into this match and to know that I beat (her). I know what I have to do. We know each other really well. We are the same age. We played so many times each other.

“For sure it's going to be really, really tough match.”

That’s something of an understatement, given the level of Radwanska’s play against second seed and twice defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the second of Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Radwanska also appeared to make the Belarusian cry as she completed yet another 6-0 set to win the match, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd after coming out on top of some stunning rallies thanks to even more stunning shotmaking. A dedicated highlight reel surely awaits.

After falling 6-1 5-7 6-0, Azarenka could only tip her hat to Radwanska’s performance.

“She was solid from the baseline. She came in when she needed to. She served well in the important moments. She was just doing everything a little bit better than me,” she said.

“I was just watching. I was like a spectator a little bit.”

After reaching the quarterfinals for three years running at Melbourne Park, Radwanska has broken through to the semifinal stage for the very first time. It’s her best major result away from her beloved lawns of Wimbledon, and now, she finds herself well positioned for success in a draw that’s been decimated by upsets.

Gone are Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, and, thanks to her own handiwork, Azarenka. It’s the first time since Australian Open 1997 that the top three seeds have exited before the semis.

Such a scenario also played out last year at Wimbledon, yet despite being favoured for the title – which would have been her first Grand Slam triumph – Radwanska fell 9-7 in the third set of her semifinal to lowly seed Sabine Lisicki. Unfancied No.15 seed Marion Bartoli ended the fortnight as the surprise Wimbledon champion.

Many will remember the cold handshake Radwanska offered Lisicki, initially thought to be evidence of her contempt for the German’s theatrics and histrionics. But instead, it may have symbolised disgust at herself after having let a golden opportunity for Grand Slam success slip through her fingers.

Had she learned anything from that missed opportunity?

“Losing matches like at Wimbledon, it's always disappointing. It's kind of painful, as well, especially that it was the semifinal of a Grand Slam," she said.

“But I think (because) you're playing so much tournaments, so much very important matches, that it takes really not much time to forget because (there are) so many other matches, other Grand Slams after that.

“I think every Grand Slam is different story. I'm trying not to really think about other matches, especially tough matches that I lost.”

Instead, she’ll focus on the favourable head-to-head she owns against Cibulkova coming into their semifinal, which currently stands at 5-1.

But they’ve played countless matches prior to turning professional; growing up in neighbouring Poland and Slovakia, the 24-year-olds first came across each other when they were just nine years old.

“I think it's always tricky to play someone that you know for so long, play so many times, as well,” Radwanska said.

“Every match is a different story, especially when it's a semifinal of a Grand Slam, the first semis for me and for her as well.

“Well, we'll see.”

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Post-Tournament
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
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