Serena's serve will tell the story
WIMBLEDON, England -- It'll be power versus finesse when Serena Williams goes up against Agnieszka Radwanska in the Wimbledon final. Though Radwanska is a crafty player whose variety works well on grass -- she won the junior event in 2005 -- Williams is a big favorite. The American has the bigger serve by far and will be able to take advantage of Radwanska's vulnerable delivery, giving her the immediate edge when points start. There is also a big gap in experience. Williams will be playing her 17th Grand Slam final, Radwanska her first.
Big sister and five-time champion Venus will be watching Serena in the stands, as will their father, Richard, who helps coach the pair. Radwanska will have little sister Urszula in her camp, but her father and one-time coach, Robert, has not been seen at the Championships so far. Radwanska has loosened the family coaching ties and is working with Tomasz Wiktorowski these days.
Here are five things we need to watch from each player:
1. The serve
Williams sealed her placed in the final with a record 24th ace, bringing her total to 85 for the tournament.
The scary part? She didn't even notice.
"I wasn't going for that much," Williams said after defeating Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals. "Actually during the match I thought I didn't serve well. I thought, 'Gosh, I got to get more first serves in.' I don't think my first-serve percentage was up there."
Actually, it was 70 percent -- a very good number given the force and aggression of Williams' serve. The numbers suggest that at the age of 30, Williams is still improving her serve.
A similar performance in the final, and it's likely to be a quick fifth Wimbledon title.
2. The movement
Her serve kept her in the tournament through two tough matches in the third and fourth rounds, but Williams then picked up her movement and shot-making in the quarterfinals against Petra Kvitova, during which she reached a whole new level.
And her movement is the thing that will be most severely tested by Radwanska's defense and variety. Williams hardly lacks for speed but did get her ankle re-taped during a doubles match before the semifinals, suggesting it might be bothering her. Her doubles campaign with sister Venus has meant extra matches. Serena has completed five in the past three days.
3. The nerves
Serena's first-round collapse at the French Open lingered as she entered the All England Club. And we can't help but recall her nervous start in the U.S. Open final. Two years after her last Grand Slam title, it'll be interesting to see how much nerves play a role against Radwanska.
4. The error count
Williams will be looking to impose her game on Radwanska, but as she notes, "I think if I try to do too much overpowering, I can be led to a lot of errors."
5. The history
Serena will be trying to tie Venus with five Wimbledon victories, and is vying for her14th Grand Slam singles title overall. If she wins, she would be the first 30-year-old to win a Grand Slam since Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1990.
In contrast to Williams, Radwanska has one of the weakest serves among the top players and a strikingly vulnerable second serve. If she doesn't get a lot of first deliveries in and place them well, Williams will be all over her on the return.
This is Radwanska's forte, and if she can draw Williams into long rallies, expect some creative points. Among the things to look out for: defensive forehands while almost sitting on the ground, deep slices, stroked volleys and drop shots.
Radwanska is also one of those players who seems to know where the ball is going at all times. Watch her start moving almost before the other player hits it.
Radwanska has been coughing and sniffling during the tournament, and it got so bad during her semifinal postmatch news conference that she had to stop it partway through. She also pulled out of doubles earlier in the week with a respiratory illness. It doesn't seem to have affected her much on court, however.
4.The winner count
In three of her past four matches, Radwanska has made only six unforced errors during the contest. It's an amazing number even by Wimbledon's generous statistical standards, and she'll have to be similarly precise during the final. But she'll also have to look to end points on her own terms if she wants to prevent Williams from dominating. In Radwanska's first Grand Slam final, will she step up or draw back?
A win would catapult Radwanska to No. 1 in the world, making it the third straight time this year that a woman has won a Grand Slam and reached No. 1 at the same time. She would also be the first Polish woman to win a Grand Slam.
Wimbledon 2012 -- June 25-July 8
Serena and Venus Williams
Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen
Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan
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