Here we go again. It’s the off-season. Or is it the pre-season? It passes by with a blink of an eye, while players rest and recharge for the start of a new season. Agnieszka Radwanksa, a consistent top 10er and one of the world’s most underrated players, is hoping to capitalize on one of the best seasons of her young career when January rolls around.
The 22-year-old from Poland is known to most as Aggie, or simply, Aga. She isn’t the most powerful player on the WTA Tour, but Radwanska has the finesse and confidence to beat just about anyone. In fact, Radwanska toppled an impressive cast of imposing rivals this year, with nine wins over top 10 players, and six over top five players–second only to Petra Kvitova, who had 13 wins. She is also the only Polish player in the WTA’s top 100 (her sister Ursula is ranked No. 109).
The latter part of this season was especially good for Radwanska. She pulled off two improbable wins during the Asian swing, winning back-to-back titles at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo (d. Zvonareva), and the China Open (d. Petkovic). That’s 1,900 ranking points, for those keeping track. And it didn’t go unnoticed that Radwanska’s pockets got a bit deeper, too. She earned a whopping $6,550,000 in prize money in the span of two weeks. With 11-staight match wins, Radwanska jumped from No. 13 to No. 8 in the rankings, equaling her career high from February, 2010.
Earlier in the season, Radwanska had begun to experience some problems with her right shoulder while playing in Carlsbad, despite winning the title there (her first title since Eastbourne, 2008). Radwanska had managed to maintain good form at the Roger’s Cup in Toronto, beating Andrea Petkovic in the quarterfinals in straight sets, but lost to Sam Stosur in the semifinals. She was then forced to pull out of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati due to her shoulder injury.
In a recent interview, Radwanska said that she has been suffering from inflammation of shoulder bursa. “I got an injection and everything should be okay within 4-6 weeks. At the moment, I play at 80 percent of my ability and try not to exert my shoulder too much.”
During the U.S. Open, Radwanska made an impressive (and surprising) semifinal run in doubles with Daniela Hantuchova. During her post-match press conference, Radwanska was pleased with her results in doubles and wasn’t having much shoulder trouble, but was hesitant to talk about the much-hyped split with her coach/father. In a recent interview with a Polish newspaper, Radwanska cleared up the coaching rumors. “Nothing’s going to change,” she said. “When I’m in Cracow [Poland], I always train with my dad. My traveling coach will be Tomasz Wiktorowski [Poland's Fed Cup Coach], who helps me at the tournaments. If what I did worked, why should I change it?” You can’t argue with that.
Radwanska’s year culminated in Istanbul, at the Year-End-Championships. Just prior to the event, she was neck and neck with Marion Bartoli to qualify for the 8th and final spot. When Bartoli withdrew from the Kremlin cup due to illness, Radwanska was in. This was her first year earning direct qualification into the YEC, while Bartoli was an alternate. Radwanska played well, but missed out on a semifinal spot by losing to eventual champion, Petra Kvitova.
But Radwanska isn’t complaining. She wrapped up her season ranked 8th in the world with a 46-18 record.
Radwanska has shown what a fighter she can be, playing through injury, and taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. She has the game to go the distance, if she can remain injury-free.
Her goals for 2012: “For sure in the next year I’m going to be focused more on the Grand Slams and trying to step forward, being top 8, or top 5.”
As an added bonus, Radwanska was voted “WTA Fan Favorite Singles Player” in November. Her underrated player status? That may just be a thing of the past.