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Radwanska, Panfil continue unbeaten run

29 December 2013, by Dan Imhoff

UPDATE: Unheralded journeyman Grzegorz Panfil has pulled off the biggest win of his career, overcoming a rankings gap of  277 places to stun world No.11 Milos Raonic 7-6(1) 6-3 to hand Poland a surprise 2-0 victory over Canada.

Agnieszka Radwanska had earlier got the Poles off to an expected, albeit hard-fought, 1-0 lead with a 6-3 6-7 (7) 6-2 triumph over Eugenie Bouchard; the pair producing some of the highest quality shotmaking of the tournament to date.

The Canadians managed to salvage a point from the tie with a 6-3 5-7 10-3 win, but the night belonged to Panfil, a player used to plying his trade in far-flung challenger events in the likes of Romania, Cyprus and Turkey.

Having showed glimpses of his booming leftie serve and heavy forehands while leading Andreas Seppi by a set on debut, before the Italian retired with illness, Panfil played with no fear against the biggest server in the men’s game.

With games going predictably on serve to a first-set tiebreak, Panfil played out of his skin, crunching a Raonic second serve for a backhand winner before a superb low stretch-backhand volley winner into the open court and an unreturnable serve bringing up five set points.

He closed it out, much to the delight of a large Polish contingent in the crowd and built on the momentum early in the second set, breaking for 2-0 before ending the set, 6-3.

“I’m really surprised, it was my best match in my career so I’m really happy and back into Australia after six years. I’m really happy to be here, yeah I still can’t believe it,” a beaming Panfil said.

“I was so so focused on every point. I was serving really good, much better than yesterday … I was trying to play like always my best tennis. The serve’s were pretty good and my forehand as well.”

On the back of an easy win over Flavia Pennetta on Saturday, Radwanska’s testing encounter was the perfect preparation ahead of the Australian Open.

‘I think so, yes of course, I think every match is a great practice between playing points and playing a real match. [It] is a great warm-up before Sydney and Melbourne. So I’m very happy I could play another good match and I’m ready for the next one,” the world No.5 said.

The 2012 Wimbledon runner-up looked headed for a convincing straight-sets result when leading 6-3 4-1 but with her back to the wall, the 19-year-old Canadian showed impressive grit to bring games back on serve before breaking for 6-5.

Having taken four games on the run, Bouchard faltered while trying to serve out the set and quickly found herself down 4-1 in the tiebreak as Radwanska drilled the lines.

However, the WTA Newcomer of the Year for 2013 would rally once more, saving three match points and clinching the set with an overhead putaway to force the decider.

“Yes well in the first set I was 3-1 down and then I came back with three … I think this is just women’s tennis, you know everything changes all the time and of course 4-1 … so a lot of opportunities that I missed and of course I paid the price by losing the set,” Radwanska said.

She brought up match point number four with an ace before closing it out with the point of the match – guessing correctly on a Bouchard smash to whip a crosscourt forehand winner past the Canadian at net.

“Yes I was saying on court that I played a very similar shot in Beijing, um, I think it was a quarterfinal, so it was exactly the same thing. I think it’s just my shot,” Radwanska said.

For Bouchard the disappointment at having fought back to force a decider was obvious.

She had rallied from a set down to upset Sam Stosur on Saturday night and looked to have turned the tables once again before Radwanska raised her game in the third set.

“I felt like I didn’t really play well in the first so I lost quite a few games in a row so I was happy to try turn that around at least and make it a match, so I got a little tired at the end and she kept her level up,” Bouchard said.