To napisał Peter Bodo - znany autorytet z Tennis.net po wczorajszym meczu
Guilty pleasures to wstydliwe, ukrywane rzeczy, które sprawiaja nam przyjemność
A Guilty Pleasure 03/28/2012 - 6:00 PM
MIAMI—Agnieszka Radwanska may be the game’s greatest guilty pleasure.
We’re not supposed to embrace that throwback game of hers. The grail these days is power, but she eschews it. In a time when “charisma” seems to be all about emotion, Radwanska is undemonstrative. While the top players shriek and scream, she punctuates her shots (and only during a particularly stressful rally) with a brief, barely audible gasp.
Okay, so maybe that’s because Aggie’s standard-issue forehand might not have enough force to puncture a wet Kleenex. While “racquet head speed” is a phrase on everyone’s lips these days, Radwanska's swing is often so modulated that you can run out for coffee at the take-back and return in time to see the follow through—even if you had to stand in line at Starbucks.
Gasp. This is the fifth-ranked woman in the world?
Yep. And you don’t get there just by being “interesting.”
Today at the Sony Ericsson Open, Radwanska ended the dramatic push by Venus Williams in the quarterfinals. The Pole won 6-4, 6-1—a yawner on the face of it, especially when you factor in the obvious fact that by the third game of the match, Venus looked like she was already out of gas. That’s what happens when you’re 31 years old and unseeded (thanks to a ranking of No. 134), coming off of three consecutive emotional, three-set wins, and are also trying to manage the athlete-unfriendly illness called Sjogren’s Syndrome.
But it’s a still testament to the clout of the mere name, “Venus Williams”, that in a pre-match pow-wow with her pal Caroline Wozniacki, Radwanska—23 years old and healthy as a horse—had determined that she had “nothing to lose.”
Despite all that, the match was anything but a dud, partly because it offered a few intriguing plot points, and also because watching Radwanska at work can be an absorbing experience in roughly the same way as seeing a glassblower turn a blob of molten liquid into an exquisite vase.
For the first few games, Venus was content to play straight-on, baseline-to-baseline tennis. She lost her serve at love in the first game, and won just one point in the second. Although she broke back for 2-all, by then her head was hanging and her shoulders were slumped.
Broken at 15 in the next game, Venus abruptly changed strategy and began to attack the net with an urgency and consistency we rarely see in the WTA. It was welcome in a sport where such dramatic—and obvious—shifts of strategy are rare.
The measure also caught Radwanska off guard; Venus broke her back for 3-all. Asked about the tactical decision later, Radwanska said, “Well, I mean, she's tall, and it's very tough to even pass her. Especially with the overhead, she was pretty much everywhere at the net. So, you know, if it's working, why not?”
Well, because resorting to such desperate measures almost certainly doomed Venus to failure, given her condition and Radwanska's ability to play defense and counterpunch. But the adjustment created a nice contrast, called for some entertaining shotmaking, and signaled that Venus wasn't prepared to take the loss just going through the motions with an unworkable game plan.
Radwanska broke again for 4-3 and made that break hold up to win the set. As she adapted to Venus' new, aggressive mode, Radwanska called upon variety that few comparably defensive players own. At one point, she seemed ready to hit a conventional, cross-court backhand drive, but altered the angle of the racquet head at the last moment to carve out a pretty, down-the-line backhand slice that caught Venus flat-footed.
Later, Venus and Radwanska awkwardly came face-to-face at the net, right by the netpost. It was a little like those times when you and an oncoming fellow pedestrian can't get out of each other's way for trying. Radwanska’s quick reactions and soft hands enabled her to get the best of the point-blank volley exchange.
And then there was that forehand volley that Radwanska took low and on the dead run at full stretch along the sideline, with the racquet head so still that when the ball caromed off it, heading cross-court, you could read the writing on it. Sweet. That point gave Radwanska a game point for 3-1, and she converted it with a surprising attack of her own, teasing out a forehand passing-shot error. She wouldn’t lose another game.
It’s also a pleasure these days to watch a player who knows the value of stillness in all its manifestations. This is true in Radwanska's game—watch how still she keeps her head as she swings (weep, weekend warriors). But it’s also true of her person. She’s remarkably calm on the court. Did she really just play an entire match against a Williams sister without throwing in a fist pump or exhortation to. . . come on!
Was she really as calm inside as she looked on the outside?
Radwanska laughed at the question and replied: “You know, it depends. Well, for example, 5-2 up and then suddenly you're 6-5 down. . .then you're not really calm at that point. But, yes, you know, I'm trying to just stay calm and just to be focused, because this is tennis. Everything can happen, everything can change, you know, pretty fast. Just, you know, trying to, you know, fight till the end.”
It was a curiously anodyne answer. But the uninteresting bits only make the interesting ones look that much better.