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Friday, July 6, 2012
Updated: July 7, 3:52 AM ET
Radwanska ill heading into Wimbledon final

By Sandra Harwitt

The prevailing opinion around the All England Club is a healthy Agnieszka Radwanska would have a difficult time winning her first Grand Slam title against Serena Williams in Saturday's Wimbledon final.

Now that No. 3 seed Radwanska has a respiratory infection, her chances of beating Williams have become even less conceivable.

After scoring her first Grand Slam final berth with a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber on Thursday, Radwanska had to excuse herself midway through a post-match news conference because of a coughing fit.

Agnieszka Radwanska
Agnieszka Radwanska has the chance to become No. 1 in the rankings and Poland's first Grand Slam champion with a win over Serena Williams.

A day earlier, Radwanska and her younger sister, Urszula, forfeited their women's third-round doubles match because of Agnieszka's illness.

On Friday, the 23-year-old Agnieszka Radwanska canceled her news conference because of the illness. WTA Tour officials said she had lost her voice.

Radwanska, however, has every intention of playing on Saturday afternoon. Grand Slam final opportunities don't come around every day -- this is Radwanska's seventh season on tour and the first time she has ever gone past the quarterfinals at a major. If she can win, she will be the No. 1 player in the world.

"The priority is my singles match tomorrow, so I will do whatever it takes to make sure I'm ready to play the best I can," said Radwanska in quotes distributed through the WTA Tour on Friday.

"Everyone dreams when they are a kid about becoming No. 1, so I'm very happy to have a chance to play for the top ranking. But there is still one very tough match to go. Of course, I will do everything in my power to perform well and win, but it's not going to be easy."

Williams, who has 13 Grand Slam singles titles, has a chance to win the singles and doubles titles. She expects Radwanska to show up even if she has to crawl out of bed.

"She's definitely resting up for tomorrow," Williams said. "She's looking good and getting ready. This is a big thing."

Williams and Radwanska have played twice before, with Williams winning both matches. Williams, who could earn her fifth Wimbledon title, beat Radwanska here in the 2008 quarterfinals.

"Regarding the match against Serena, we have played a couple of times a long time ago," said Radwanska, who has won three titles this year. "I think it is going to be another challenge, especially here on grass. She's playing amazing tennis at the moment. I don't really have much to lose, so I'm going to try my best and we'll see."

As for Williams, she's shrugging off the notion she's a shoo-in for the title. She laughed when told her father, Richard, predicted she'll win easily.

"I have to go out there and win," said Williams, who won two titles, both on clay, this season. "Agnieszka has had a better year than I have. She's been way more consistent than me. She's done really well, so she's ranked higher than me.

"I have to go out there and fight for this. Never, ever, do I underestimate any opponent."

Comparisons have been drawn between Radwanska and Martina Hingis, a five-time Grand Slam champion who won Wimbledon in 1997. The similarities extend past both having been Wimbledon junior champions. Neither possesses a power game and both rely on cerebral strategy, shot variety and finesse.

Hingis did everything a little bit better than Radwanska, and she had a confidence that Radwanska has yet to match.

"Probably from the players today she would probably be the one who most played like me," said Hingis, playing in the senior event here. "She still has to step it up to win Grand Slams."

It will be tough if Williams' serve continues to be strong. She served 24 aces against Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals -- that's six free games worth of points. Against Azarenka, she pulled off a 120-mph serve.

There were those that questioned whether WIlliams might be vulnerable after she suffered her first first-round Grand Slam loss at the French Open.

But Williams is looking hard to beat.

If Williams wins a 14th Grand Slam title, it will be her first major victory since winning here in 2010. Since that time she has dealt with injuries and illness. First, she cut her foot on glass and the wound refused to heal. Then, more seriously, she had a life-threatening lung embolism in March 2011.

Those events have helped Williams find a mature perspective.

"I have so much appreciation for every moment on the court," Williams said. "I really take pride in playing, especially playing such big, amazing tournaments like this. I just want to do the absolute best that I can at all moments."

Williams is the first 30-year-old to reach the Wimbledon final since Steffi Graf's runner-up performance in 1999. If Williams wins, she'd be the first player in her thirties to win the title since Martina Navratilova, at age 33, in 1990.

In Williams' mind, however, being 30 is of little consequence.

"I feel really good and healthy and great," William said. "Like I said the other day, mentally I'm 12. Hopefully, I can grow up."

And for Radwanska, no matter what transpires, she knows that this Wimbledon has been a life-changer even if she doesn't become Poland's first Grand Slam champion.

"I think this is the best two weeks of my career, playing my first Grand Slam final and achieving a career-high ranking no matter the outcome tomorrow," she said.