By Jane Voigt
There’s nothing about Agnieszka Radwanska that says power. She’s 5-foot-8 and weighs a bit over 120 pounds. This week, she’s styling a dress with butterflies on it. And her visor is embroidered with a logo from the popular American-based restaurant chain, “The Cheesecake Factory.”
But … looks are deceiving.
One of the most fearsome players on tour, “Aga” draws the life out of opponents as she drags them about every inch of a tennis court. Today was no different in Singapore as the year-end extravaganza winds down at the WTA Finals. Across the net from the No. 6 seeded Radwanska was her long-time friend, Caroline Wozniacki, seeded No. 8. By contrast, the Dane is not feared, but worrying, especially in light of her sharp resurgence in the last six months. Time after time, her opponents have verified – and vilified – her ability to hit the extra ball.
Put these two champions together on a slow, hard court and you have a formula for extended play, with twists and turns that enough fans thought they were finding their way through a maze. Take their first point, for example — a 22-shot rally. That was followed by multiple breaks of serve and a knotted first set at 3-3 after 32 minutes. Both women were sucking air.
“I knew this was going to be a match with a lot of long rallies,” Wozniacki told Andrew Krasny of Tennis Channel on court after her 7-5, 6-3 victory.
She was right.
And not until Wozniacki steadied the ship late in the first did fans get a glimpse of the eventual winner. Her strength was consistency; her willingness to take risks was aided by a sloppy ground game from Radwanska.
“I was expecting again three hours today,” Wozniacki explained to fans, after having come through an epic tussle against Maria Sharapova two days ago. “I’m ready for everything, though. I’m running [the NYC] marathon in 10 days.”
Maybe her training regime was a saving grace for Caroline. As the second set progressed signs of an exhausted – or close to it – Radwanska appeared. Her normally exquisitely executed drop shots went south. Her running pulled back a touch. The accuracy of her ball-placement dissolved. With her second round robin win of the week, Wozniacki came closer to a semifinal berth. Her match record is 2-0 match, but an assured presence in the knockout rounds largely depends on the outcome of other matches scheduled for Friday:
That Caroline Wozniacki is even in the mix at all in Singapore mirrors the type of fall season she has experienced. Chris Evert, who popped into the broadcast booth for part of the match, attributed Wozniacki’s resurgence to her breakup with Rory McIlroy, the world’s top golfer. Whatever the root cause, Wozniacki has proven herself in spades since those dark weeks in the spring.
She returned to the Top 10 – for the first time since early January – after contesting her second major final in New York against another friend, Serena Williams. Wozniacki also chalked up a 3-8 record against the top 10, those three wins coming in August over Angelique Kerber, Radwanska, and Sharapova in the fourth round of the US Open.
Wozniacki’s appearance in Singapore was on the line until early October, as well. However, her performances in Tokyo and Wuhan, where she made the final and semifinal respectively, inched her closer to a berth. When Li Na announced her retirement, Wozniacki became the last entrant.
Seems like the good guys can finish last. And win.
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