LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) - The gulf between Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska was perhaps never more evident than when the Pole left Wimbledon’s Centre Court as a beaten finalist and described her defeat as a “dream” and the culmination of the “best two weeks of my life”.
For Williams, this was a 14th grand slam title and another 1.15 million pounds ($1.78 million) to add to a burgeoning pool of career cash, while Radwanska had missed out on claiming a maiden major title in her first major final.
Barring a mid-match wobble, the chasm was equally evident in Saturday’s showdown which Williams won 6-1 5-7 6-2.
Radwanska, despite the No.1 ranking being up for grabs, was a huge underdog going into Sunday’s final, her odds lengthening when she was hit by a respiratory illness this week.
When she went 5-0 down in the first she looked overwhelmed by the occasion but showed bags of fight to turn the match into a real contest as Williams went off the boil.
Therefore, it was perhaps understandable that she reflected so philosophically on defeat.
”These are the best two weeks of my life,“ she told reporters. ”When practicing and playing tennis all your life, I think it’s a dream for everyone to be in the final.
“So basically I‘m just very happy. Of course it’s always disappointing to lose, especially after a tough and good match. But so very happy about my final.”
It was all new for the 23-year-old Radwanska, who had never been beyond the quarter-final of a slam before and who was her country’s first major finalist since 1939.
She had looked like a rabbit caught in headlights as Williams blasted out of the blocks and took the first set for the loss of only one game before a rain delay allowed her opponent time to gather her thoughts.
“I was a little bit nervous in the beginning, especially being in my first final,” she said.
”I think I just wanted too much a little bit. I think the break was better for me just to cool down a little bit.
”When I was going on the court the second time, I just felt it was like a normal match. It didn’t seem like a final anymore, so there was not that much pressure.
“But then I was just trying to do everything, to play good tennis. And I think it was a great match. She was really playing well today.”
It was Williams’ first grand slam singles title since 2010 and the first since she suffered life-threatening complications following a cut foot in 2010.
She had shown flashes of her imperious brilliance in the run up to Saturday’s match with her serve in particular proving a dynamic weapon.
Radwanska was on the receiving end of a 49-second game of aces early in the third set as Williams, who served 102 in the tournament, regained control of the match.
”This is the thing I can’t do anything about,“ Radwanska said of the ace barrage. ”I mean in the second set I think it was a little bit more windy, she didn’t put that many first serves in, and I had chances to break her back.
I did it, so that was good. But I think it’s her weapon, the serve. That’s why she has won the tournament five times already.” ($1 = 0.6449 British pounds) (Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Martyn Herman)