Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska came back from the brink to reach her fifth Australian Open quarter-final on Sunday with a hard-fought win over German Anna-Lena Friedsam, who left the court in tears.
The Polish star extended her current win streak to 12 matches with a 6-7 (6), 6-1, 7-5 triumph over the unseeded German, who struggled with cramps and injury late in the match. It was a tough workout for Radwanska, who is seeking to go one better than the semi-finals she made in 2014.
She will face either Spanish 10th seed Carla Suarez or Moscow-born Australian Daria Gavrilova in the last eight.
Despite the loss, it was a memorable tournament for 21-year-old Friedsam, ranked 82, who went further at a Grand Slam than she had ever done before. She earned her crack at Radwanska by beating Roberta Vinci, the Italian who ended Serena Williams’ calendar Grand Slam dreams at the US Open last year.
“I knew it was going to be a tough one. She plays better than her ranking. She played amazing and I was in real trouble in the first and third sets,” said Radwanska. “I was just lucky in the end.”
It was the second time this month she had beaten Friedsam, after coming out on top at the semi-finals of the Shenzhen Open, a tournament she won.
Radwanska looked out of sorts as the match got underway and was broken on her first service game with the German going on the attack. The Pole broke back but it was a short-lived reprieve with Friedsam shocking her with another break in the fifth.
The momentum kept shifting with Radwanska clawing back to 3-4 as her trademark double-handed backhand finally found its range.
Friedsam’s confidence was fading and she was broken to love again, with Radwanska reeling off four games in a row.
But the plucky German, knocked out in the first round last year, regrouped and pushed the set to a gruelling tiebreak, pumping her fist in joy when a net volley gave her the set in 62 minutes.
In a battle of the baseliners, the composed Pole held serve to open the second set then got a crucial advantage on a break point in the second game with an overhead volley.
The exertions of the first set seemed to have taken their toll on Friedsam and 11 unforced errors allowed the fitter Radwanska to race through the second set in just 26 minutes.
Friedsam went off court for a toilet break to regroup and it seemed to pay dividends.
While she lost her opening service in the third set she scored two breaks to lead 4-2. But with Friedsam serving for the match, she drew on her big match experience to break back.
The intense match took its toll on the German, who had a medical timeout for a right thigh problem, then broke down with cramps in the 11th game.
Fighting back tears, she gamely continued but the cool Radwanska progressed.