LONDON — Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanksa will meet in tomorrow's Wimbledon final in a battle of raw power against slender poise and expectation over hope.
Four-time champion Williams, the 30-year-old sixth seed, buried Victoria Azarenka under a record firestorm of 24 aces to reach her seventh Wimbledon final yesterday, winning 6-3, 7-6 (8/6).
Third seed Radwanska, seven years Williams's junior, became the first Polish Grand Slam finalist for 73 years when she cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Germany's Angelique Kerber.
As well as a record 24 aces, beating her own best of 23 set against Zheng Jie in the third round, Williams also fired a whopping 45 winners. She has now hit a total of 85 aces in the tournament which even puts her into second place on the men's list where only Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber has hit more with 98.
Williams will start as the hot favourite tomorrow having beaten Radwanska in their two meetings without dropping a set, including the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2008 where the American lost just four games.
"I've been working so hard, I really wanted it," said Williams, the first 30-year-old to reach the All England Club final since Steffi Graf in 1999.
"She was playing well and I got a little tight in the second set. I was looking too far in the future. I was so close, but I can't do that. I was happy to get through that second set tie-break."
Williams, who won the first of her four Wimbledon titles 10 years ago, insisted that the destination of the 2012 crown is far from a foregone conclusion despite her brutal power being expected to overwhelm the slender Radwanska.
"She's doing unbelievable. She's playing so great. Wow, she's going to get every ball back," said the American, whose serving prowess would not look out of place in the men's game.
Williams played two doubles matches on Wednesday with sister Venus, but showed no signs of fatigue against Azarenka, taking the first set courtesy of eight aces and 20 winners, while allowing her opponent just four points on serve.
That was the first set dropped by the 22-year-old Belarusian at the tournament.
Buoyed by a 7-1 winning record against the Australian Open champion, who could have retaken the world No 1 spot had she won, Williams broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set, secured with a sweeping forehand service return.
Azarenka hit back to level at 3-3 and then saved a match point in the tiebreak.
But the record 24th ace, blitzed right down the middle, gave Williams a deserved win.
Radwanska's first appearance in a Grand Slam final emulates the achievement of compatriot Jadwiga Jedrzejowska, who reached the pre-Open era French Championships final in 1939.
Jedrzejowska lost that French final and was also beaten in the Wimbledon and US Championships finals in 1937, so Radwanska is well aware she would write her name in tennis history as the first Polish winner of a major if she beats Williams.
"I know that she was the finalist here many years ago. I'm just very happy that I'm the second one to be in the Wimbledon final," Radwanska said.
"I think she lost in three sets that year but now I will try to win the final."
Radwanska is relishing the final, her first Grand Slam title match after falling in the quarterfinals on five occasions before this year's Wimbledon.
"I don't really have anything to lose, so I'm just going to try my best," she said.
"I was the first Polish player who won in a semifinal for many years, so I think this is already a big success. And now here in the final it's even bigger."
Women's singles (semifinals): Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x3) bt Angelique Kerber (GER x8) 6-3, 6-4; Serena Williams (USA x6) bt Victoria Azarenka (BLR x2) 6-3, 7-6 (8/6).
Men's doubles (quarterfinals): Robert Lindstedt/Horia Tecau (SWE/ROM x5) bt Daniele Bracciali/Julian Knowle (ITA/AUT) 6-4, 6-2, 6-4; Jurgen Melzer/Philipp Petzschner (AUT/GER x10) bt Ivan Dodig/Marcelo Melo (CRO/BRA x15) 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3; Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA/USA x2) bt Scott Lipsky/Rajeev Ram (USA/USA) 5-7, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Women’s doubles (quarterfinals): Flavia Pennetta/Francesca Schiavone (ITA/ITA) bt Nuria Llagostera/Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (ESP/ESP x9) 6-2, 6-7 (0/7), 6-4; Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (CZE/CZE x6) bt Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (ITA/ITA x2) 6-3, 6-4. — AFP