Former world number two Agnieszka Radwanska had another typical year. She contended in some big tournaments and won enough to make the world believe she could one day win a major, but she also lost. A lot. If not for a year-end surge to remember, this season would have been a complete disaster for the 26-year-old Pole. But a tear over the final weeks has the tennis world believing that 2016 could be her year.
When the dust settled, Radwanska had finished the year 51-25 with three titles. She did not win a title until October. Her best result at a major came at Wimbledon, reaching the semifinals. On the other hand, she also lost in the first round at Roland Garros. After seeing her ranking tumble during the first half of the season, falling out of the top ten in May, she recovered well to finish the year ranked number five.
Radwanska’s year was book ended by the highlights. She kicked off her season with a win at the Hopman Cup, partnering Jerzy Janowicz. She went 3-1 in her singles matches, which included a win in the final over Serena Williams, her first ever win over the legendary American. Radwanska’s year went downhill very quickly after that and she would not recover until late September. Under the gun to try to qualify for the WTA Finals, Radwanska was scheduled to play five tournaments in five weeks. When it mattered most, she found her form, winning two titles in Asia (Tokyo, Tianjin) and reached another semifinal. It was enough to book her spot in Singapore, where she ended her season in the best way possible: winning the biggest title of her career at the WTA Tour Finals.
While Radwanska’s year started and ended well, she probably wants to forget what happened in between. With the exception of the grass court season, the first three-quarters of the 2015 season was a disaster for the former Wimbledon finalist. Between the Hopman Cup and the grass court season, Radwanska only reached two quarter-finals, advancing to the semifinals once. This awful run of form was highlighted by a sweep in the Fed Cup by Russia and a first round loss at Roland Garros. She also parted ways with her iconic coach, 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova, after only four months in April. In May, Radwanska fell out of the top ten for the first time since October 2011. It appeared as though she was going to recover after a solid grass season, but she continued to struggle through the summer hard courts, failing to advance past the quarter-finals in any tournament.
Without question, the WTA Finals was not only the best result of Radwanska’s year, but the best result of her entire career. It is sort off bizarre, considering that Radwanska went 1-2 in the round robin, but she played her best when it mattered most, fighting out three set wins over Garbine Muguruza in the semi-finals and Petra Kvitova in the final to end her year on the highest of notes. She is the only woman to win the Year-End Championships in the round robin era (since 2003) after losing two of her round robin matches. Apart from her dramatic win in Singapore, she claimed two other titles in Asia which helped her reach the tour finals, winning in Tokyo (d. Bencic) and Tianjin (d. Kovinic). Her best result at a major came at Wimbledon, where she reached the semi-finals before losing to Muguruza. Overall, she had a strong grass season, which was the lone highlight before the fall hard courts. But all that really matters this year was her year-end title.
In a year full of poor results, rock bottom was Radwanska’s first round defeat at the French Open at the hands of 83rd ranked Annika Beck 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. The loss came just after Radwanska’s fall out of the top ten and was her first opening round loss at a major this decade. She also suffered a disappointing loss in the semi-finals in Katowice in straight sets to Camila Giorgi. Losses on home soil are always disappointing, especially late in tournaments in straight sets to an opponent ranked almost thirty spots lower. Her national pride certainly took a hit in 2015. In the opening round of the Fed Cup, Radwanska lost both her singles matches in Poland’s loss to Russia. After the Hopman Cup, she did not do too well while representing her country.
If not for her title at the WTA Finals, this grade would be much lower. However, Radwanska finished the year about as well as anyone could. She claimed the largest non-Grand Slam title of the season and did so with a tremendous amount of heart. That title managed to effectively erase all the disappointment that she had suffered throughout the season and she will now head into the 2016 season with confidence and momentum