World No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland moved her Australian Open preparation into high gear when she beat Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 6-4 to win the ASB Classic, her 11th career title.
Playing her first tournament since October, Radwanska dropped only one set in five matches to claim the Auckland singles crown at her first attempt. She showed no signs of rustiness in her first tournament since October and said she felt confident as she headed towards the first Grand Slam of the season.
"I couldn’t imagine a better start to the year," Radwanska said. "It’s the perfect preparation for the Australian Open."
Wickmayer, who was hoping to add her second title in her third finals appearance in Auckland, fought hard and saved five match points before bowing to Radwanska for the third time in as many meetings.
Radwanska’s greatest weapon again was her consistency. She created 12 breakpoint chances and converted two in each set to win the match in 96 minutes.
Wickmayer fought tenaciously but she was compelled to be aggressive by Radwanska’s steady game and she succumbed to unforced errors, 75 to 28.
The difference in the players’ styles was measured by the fact Wickmayer hit 16 forehand winners to two in the second set, along with 12 backhand winners to two but still could not win.
Radwanska played most of the match from well beyond the baseline and kept the ball in play, forcing Wickmayer to take the initiative and look for passing shots. In windy conditions, that led to the errors that ultimately cost Wickmayer the match.
"I’m a little disappointed," Wickmayer said. "But I fought my heart out and I left my heart and soul on the court.
"I couldn’t have done any more than I did."
Radwanska had the advantage for the most of the match. She broke Wickmayer’s serve in the third game of the fourth set but dropped her own in the eight game for 4-4. The top seed then immediately broke back and served out the first set in 45 minutes.
Wickmayer gained an early break in the second game of the second set but also dropped serve in her next game and again in the seventh game to trail 4-3. The Belgian saved four break points in the ninth game and then forced Radwanska to battle through the longest game of the match, holding three break points and saving one match point before succumbing.