A. Radwanska d. Wickmayer, 6-4 6-4 in Auckland
Agnieszka Radwanska didn’t deploy her full arsenal of guile in this match, but she didn’t have to. Wickmayer put up a good fight, her powerful groundstrokes testing Radwanska’s well-known defensive capabilities and sometimes turning into winners. But in windy Auckland, Wickmayer’s timing was unreliable. Radwanska often gambled by inviting Wickmayer to hit winners (especially winning volleys), and more often than not profited from Wickmayer’s resulting errors.
In the middle of the first set, with Wickmayer already struggling, her coach offered her an unorthodox theory of point contruction, telling her to go for risky, big shots on the first two strokes of a point, and then play safer shots in an effort to tire Radwanska. There was never a chance the tall, muscular Wickmayer could win by outlasting the speedy Radwanska in a defensive battle of attrition. But at the beginning of the second set, the reckless strategy of going for broke early in points seemed to pay off briefly, as Wickmayer broke for a 2-0 lead.
Never one to be overly bothered when her serve is broken though, Radwanska threw Wickmayer off balance with a few of her trademark short-angled crosscourt slices, which won points either outright or by bringing Wickmayer to the unfamiliar territory of the net. The final drama played out when Wickmayer saved five match points by swinging freely and hitting winners. But her timing and courage weren’t so strong on the three break point chances she had to get things back on serve, and Radwanska eventually served out the match to win the Auckland title.
Li d. Zakopalova, 6-3 1-6 7-5 in Shenzhen
Klara Zakopalova occasionally has amazing weeks where her game catches fire, and she hits hard, precise groundstrokes into the corners on a level that competes with the best players in the world. This was one of those weeks. She upset Marion Bartoli in the quarterfinals, and had Li Na in trouble right from the beginning of the final, leading by an early break. Li recovered from her erratic start, though, and used her greater natural power to take the first set.
The pressure to win a title in her home country took a toll on Li’s serve in the second set, though, and her double faults began to accumulate. Zakopalova tightened up her own game, too, returning well and dominating points on Li’s second serve.
At the beginning of the third set, it was Zakopalova’s turn to get nervous as she sought to confirm her momentum by jumping out to a quick lead. Still going for her shots, she hit two in the fourth game that went out by mere centimeters, and in that one game she used up her all three of her Hawkeye challenges for the set in the vain hope that she had hit a winner. She bent over in despair as Li broke for a 3-1 lead, and the match looked all but over.
Zakopalova kept fighting, though, her flat returns and groundstrokes flirting with Li’s baseline as the pressure on Li built up again. The two players exchanged breaks and then holds, and Li had a chance to serve for the match. But Zakopalova landed a return precisely on the baseline, and Li served her ninth and tenth double faults of the match, allowing Zakopalova to break back. Zakopalova then held to level the score at 5-5.
To her credit, though, Li found a way to calm down and play within herself. She held serve, and then put pressure on Zakopalova with two exceptional returns. Zakopalova followed with a tentative forehand that went way too long to be a drop shot and was too soft and straight to be an approach shot, and Li broke to win her first title on home soil since Guangzhou in 2004.
Murray d. Dimitrov, 7-6(0) 6-4 in Brisbane
As he did in earlier matches this week, Andy Murray started passively. Perhaps he underestimated Grigor Dimitrov, or perhaps he was trying to feel out the 21-year-old’s developing game. More likely Murray—who has already muttered during several matches this season that his legs feel slow—isn’t fully confident of his form. Dimitrov, who is playing with considerably more aggression and initiative this season than last, look an early lead and served for the first set.
At that point Dimitrov felt the pressure of securing a lead over a top-5 player in his first ATP singles final. His forehands, which had been pounding deep into the corners to take control of points, started landing long instead. Murray broke back and took advantage of Dimitrov’s shaken confidence by shutting out his opponent in the ensuing tiebreak.
The second set unfolded much like the first, with an aggressive Dimitrov breaking for a 4-3 lead. This time, though, Murray replied with the kind of confidence and aggression we remember from last summer, taking control of points with explosive groundstrokes and finding his way to the net. He won the last three games to win the Brisbane title.
Cibulkova d. Kvitova, 6-1 6-1 in Sydney
Dominika Cibulkova played well, making 57% of her first serves (a level she doesn’t reach often at her height of 5’3″, or 1.61 m), returning well, and hitting her groundstrokes hard and deep. Petra Kvitova aimed closer to the sidelines than she did against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Brisbane, but also missed even more often, tallying 36 unforced errors. Kvitova only controlled points on rare occasions when she was able to get to the net, either by forcing the tenacious Cibulkova to hit a short defensive lob or due to Cibulkova’s occasional tactical mistakes. Cibulkova has a reputation for struggling to close out big matches, but here she played her best points when she needed them most, repeatedly coming back from 0-30 or 15-30 in her service games and facing only one break point in the match.
S. Williams d. Pavlyuchenkova, 6-2 6-1 in Brisbane (final)
Gasquet d. Davydenko, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3 in Doha (final; Davydenko was treated for a groin injury early in the third set)
Tipsarevic d. Bautista Agut, 3-6 6-1 6-3 in Chennai (final)
Dimitrov d. Baghdatis, 6-3 5-7 7-6(5) in Brisbane (semifinals)
Tipsarevic d. Bedene, 4-6 6-2 6-2 in Chennai (semifinals)
Bautista Agut d. Paire, 3-6 6-1 6-4 in Chennai (semifinals)
Stephens d. Robson, 6-4 7-6(4) in Hobart (first round)
Kei Nishikori retired from his semifinal match in Brisbane with knee tendinitis, with Andy Murray leading 6-4 2-0.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova withdrew from Hobart, citing a hip injury.
Michael Llodra withdrew from qualifying in Sydney, citing… jet lag.