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The Warsaw Voice » Society » July 30, 2012
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A Hard Road to Success
July 30, 2012   
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Her name is on everyone’s lips though few people outside Poland can pronounce her name correctly. Polish tennis ace Agnieszka Radwańska finished the previous season in eighth place in the WTA rankings (the highest in her career) and was voted the best female tennis player of the year by fans. Supporters admired her progress and hoped she would do even better in the future. These hopes have come true: the slender tennis player from Cracow has climbed to No. 2 in the WTA rankings after a gutsy Wimbledon performance in which she made it through to the final, where she was beaten by Serena Williams of the United States.

As a child, Radwańska had no choice but to go into sports, following in her family’s footsteps. She comes from a sporting family. Her grandfather Władysław was a hockey player with the Cracovia club in Cracow and her father Robert (known as Piotr in the tennis community) played tennis at the KS Nadwi¶lan club and was also a competitive ice-skater with KS Krakowianka. Urszula Radwańska, Agnieszka’s younger sister, is a tennis player as well.

Agnieszka Radwańska was born in 1989 in Cracow, but she spent the first six years of her life in Germany, where her father was a coach in the Gruen-Gold Gronau tennis club. She started to play tennis there, but she says she does not exactly remember when she stepped onto the court for the first time. However, she remembers that she used balloons and foam balls in the beginning before she started playing with real tennis balls. She came back to Poland with her family in 1995.

First victories
At the age of six, Agnieszka won her first children’s tournament in Germany. Her first victory in professional tennis came 10 years later, at the age of 16, when she won the Ursynów Cup. A few weeks later, she won a juniors’ tournament on the grass courts of Wimbledon. Eleven months later she won another juniors’ tournament on the clay courts of Roland Garros. After that Paris victory, the Polish Tennis Association applied for a wild card for Radwańska, who was 17 at the time, to enter the “adult” Wimbledon. Thanks to that, Agnieszka Radwańska debuted in the Grand Slam, making it to the fourth round (where she lost to Kim Clijsters of Belgium, then runner-up in the WTA ranking). Radwańska advanced to 53rd place in the WTA ranking after that tournament and ended the season in 57th place. Between May and November 2006, Agnieszka Radwańska advanced by 252 places, and throughout the season she moved up by 324 notches.

Fast-paced life of a tennis champ
Combining the intensive training sessions needed by a professional athlete with education is difficult—many give up the latter and choose to focus on sports. Agnieszka Radwańska managed to reconcile the two although it was not easy. She had to study until late in the evening and then get up at 5 a.m. One training session before school, then school and a short break for sleep, so that she could study in the evening again. Sometimes this was hard because Agnieszka missed 90 percent of the classes despite her superhuman efforts. But she managed to pass her high school graduation exams. Only a handful of professional tennis players have graduated from high school.

Home full of trophies
The Radwański family apartment in Cracow is adorned with almost 300 trophies won by Agnieszka and Urszula. When illuminated with light, these sparkle with all the colors of the rainbow. There are also medals and certificates and the whole documentation of their sports careers. Of course, these exhibits tend to gather dust so the cleaning lady has a lot of work to do. But Agnieszka would not even consider giving away or hiding some of them. After all, each of these items is a part of her life; each has its own history.

Making millions
Agnieszka Radwańska is the first Polish female tennis player ever to have earned over $1 million on the tennis court. She got a check for 557,000 pounds for her appearance in this year’s Wimbledon final, which was the single biggest prize money in her career thus far (she would have gotten 1.1 million pounds if she had won). She invests in real estate, earns extra money from advertising contracts, and shies away from extravagance.

Sports and family are what matters most in her life, though she is not thinking of establishing her own family for the time being. She is strongly tied to her parents, though her father is no longer her coach. After 17 years of working together, she replaced him with Tomasz Wiktorowski, which of course set off a wave of rumors. Radwańska says she is unable to say how much longer she will continue to be a competitive tennis player. She notes that one of her sports idols, Justine Henin, ended her career at the age of 24 when she was number one on the WTA ranking list, while some other women tennis players continue their careers past the age of 36.

Idle dreams
Almost 17 years of constantly being away from home, hundreds of thousands of air miles, constant changes of climate, matches in tropical heat, exhausting training regimes, injuries... professional tennis has its downsides as well as upsides. That’s why Agnieszka Radwańska says she hopes she will be able to take a rest and do nothing after retiring from sports.

But first, fans hope to see her triumph a few more times. She is still only 23 and is not thinking of retiring from sport. This year, apart from the Grand Slam, she is taking part in the Olympic Games in London, where she will be playing on the same courts as during this year’s Wimbledon, when she did so well. Fans hope she hasn’t said her last word on the grass courts of Wimbledon this year yet…

Wimbledon 1937-2012
Before Radwańska, Jadwiga Jędrzejowska was the last Polish tennis player to play in the Wimbledon final. This was before World War II, on July 3, 1937. Jędrzejowska, aged 25, lost 2-6, 6-2, 5-7 to Dorothy Edith Round of Britain. For her second place Jędrzejowska got a badge reading “runner-up” and a voucher for three-and-a-half pounds.

Agnieszka Radwańska played in the tournament’s final against Serena Williams of the United States exactly 75 years later. Before the match, Richard Williams, Serena’s father and coach, suggested this would a breeze for his daughter. After the final, during which Radwańska put up a strong fight, Richard Williams complimented the Polish player, saying “You should be proud of her.”

On the hot afternoon of July 7, thousands of Polish television viewers watched the fight between David and Goliath. This time Goliath won. But tomorrow is another day.

Agnieszka Dokowicz

Agnieszka Radwańska: Career Highlights
Grand Slam
- Roland Garros—4th round (2008, 2009, 2011),
- Wimbledon—final (2012)
- U.S. Open—4th round (2007, 2008),
- Australian Open—quarterfinal (2008, 2011, 2012)
Junior Grand Slam
- Wimbledon—winner (2005)
- Roland Garros—winner (2006)
WTA Tour—victories (10)
- Stockholm (2007, hard court, prize money $220,000)
- Pattaya (2008, hard court, prize money $220,000)
- Istanbul (2008, clay tennis, prize money $220,000)
- Eastbourne (2008, grass court, prize money $220,000)
- Carlsbad (2011, hard court, prize money $721,000)
- Tokyo (2011, hard court, prize money $2.05 million)
- Beijing (2011, hard court, prize money $4.5 million)
- Dubai (2012, hard court, prize money $2 million)
- Miami (2012, hard court, prize money $4.8 million)
- Brussels (2012, clay court, prize money $637,000)
WTA Tour Top 10 after (and before) Wimbledon 2012:
- 1 (2). Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) 8,800 points
- 2 (3). Agnieszka Radwańska (Poland) 8,530 points
- 3 (1). Maria Sharapova (Russia) 8,370 points
- 4 (6). Serena Williams (USA) 7,360 points
- 5 (5). Samantha Stosur (Australia) 6,195 points
- 6 (4). Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) 5,275 points
- 7 (8). Angelica Kerber (Germany) 5,170 points
- 8 (7). Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) 4,091 points
- 9 (10). Sara Errani (Italy) 3,410 points
- 10 (9). Marion Bartoli (France) 3,400 points
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