Ever since last year’s US Open, Agnieszka Radwanska has been one of the strongest and most consistent players on the WTA Tour. And while she spent a good chunk of the year at number two in the rankings, and is still ranked third, she is still looking for a breakout at a major. Will this be the year she finally breaks through at Wimbledon?
Notable Results to Date
After a red-hot finish to 2015, Radwanska kept the momentum going into 2016 by opening up her season with a title in Shenzhen without dropping a set. She followed that up with a strong run to the semifinals of the Australian Open. The Pole would reach at least the semifinals of her first four events, losing two of her three matches in that span to Serena Williams.
The streak was broken when she lost in the round of 16 of Miami, but she bounced back to reach the semifinals in Stuttgart. She would stumble through the clay court season after Stuttgart, falling in the first round of Madrid, skipping Rome and losing a controversial fourth-round match at the French Open.
Best Grass Results Leading into Wimbledon
Radwanska has not had a great start to her grass court season. She kicked off her season on the grass in Birmingham but ran into the red-hot Coco Vandeweghe in the first round. The big-hitting American was coming off a title in s-Hertogenbosch the week before and carried her momentum across the channel, ousting the Pole in three sets in the first round. She fared mildly better in Eastbourne, winning her first two matches before falling in three sets to Dominika Cibulkova in the quarterfinals.
Best Results at Wimbledon
Wimbledon has been Radwanska’s most consistent major throughout her career, as she has only failed to reach the fourth round twice in ten appearances. It’s the major where she has the most match wins and it’s the only major where she has reached the final. She started out by reaching back-to-back quarterfinals in 2008 and 2009. After a pair of disappointments in the following two years, Radwanska returned to the All-England Club in 2012 ready to mount a serious challenge.
Seeded third, the Pole raced through the first four rounds without dropping more than three games in a set. She benefitted from not having to face a seeded player until the quarterfinals, but when she did, she was up to the task. The quarterfinals saw her do battle with 17th seed Maria Kirilenko. The Russian gave the third seed everything she could handle but Radwanska still found a win to win in three tight sets.
Radwanska would bounce back well, topping future Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in the semifinals in straight sets to set a date with Serena Williams in her first, and to date only, career major final. Considering she was going up against arguably the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, the Pole put up a phenomenal fight, stealing the second set to force the American legend to a deciding set before eventually falling 6-2 in the third set. Not only was this Radwanska’s best run at Wimbledon, but her best run at a major to date.
In the three appearances since her run to the 2012 final, she has reached the semifinals twice. The closest she came was in 2013 when she was the only top-ten player to reach the semifinals, but she lost 9-7 in the third set to eventual runner-up Sabine Lisicki. After a fourth-round upset in 2014, she again reached the last four in 2015, falling in three sets to Garbine Muguruza.
How Radwanska’s Game Translates to Grass
Theoretically, Radwanska’s game should not work on grass. And yet it does. Counterpunchers historically have not succeeded on grass but the Pole has proved to be the exception. She’s made the defensive, crafty style work on a surface that generally rewards power and aggression.
Radwanska covers the court perhaps better than anyone on the tour and has some of the most consistent groundstrokes out there. Where she excels, and she does this particularly well on grass where players have very little time to begin with, is in taking players time away. She takes players’ power and sends it right back at them, giving them very little time to hit a good shot. Against Radwanska, while she does not hit a ball hard, players are very rarely in a position to hit the shot they want. Her opponents are under constant pressure, and the harder they fight back the harder it gets for them.
The downside is that the slick grass makes it easier for opponents to overpower the Pole. If you look at who beat her in her three deep runs at the All-England, it was three opponents who hit the ball extremely hard. When Radwanska reaches a shot and hits it the way she wants to, she can do a lot of damage with it. But against an opponent who hits the ball extremely well, like Williams or Muguruza, she rarely has the time to set up shots that can outmanoeuvre an opponent.
Radwanska is seeded third at this year’s championships. Last time she was seeded this high at Wimbledon, she reached the final.