Radwanska Wins Miami
March 31, 2012 -- It was a contrast in styles today in Miami as Agnieszka Radwanska won her first Sony Ericsson Open title by defeating Maria Sharapova in straight sets, 75 64. Although Radwanska hadn't dropped a set throughout the tournament, the odds were entirely against her defeating the powerful game from Sharapova.
But she did.
"I think I did really good today," Radwanska told Mary Jo Fernandez on court immediately following the presentation of the Butch Buchholz trophy. "I'm happy to be in the top four."
The new champion's understated comments perfectly match her understated tennis.
Aga, her nickname, is a runner. She is creative and tenacious because the power game of today's women's tennis could overwhelm her. Her record for the year now stands at 26-4, all her losses against Victoria Azarenka, a crusher of the tennis ball.
The #2 seed, Maria Sharapova, and reigning #2 player in the world, seemed discombobulated early on, earning more errors than winners mostly as she attempted to win a point. This can be directly attributed to Maria's technique, which was affected by the pace, spin and direction of Radwanska's shots. This diminished Sharapova's confidence and bore deeply into her mental toughness -- her strongest suit.
Sharapova's serve has improved, and her movement has improved. However when Radwanska created sharp angles on court Sharapova lunged. There were no stutter steps to bring her in balance. Her first plan was to hit hard. Her second plan was to hit harder. Where was the flexibility?
Early in the match Mary Carillo, calling things for CBS, characterized Radwanska as 'that little magician.' It fit. In their longer rallies Radwanska came up with shots, and winning ones, no matter where Sharapova sent the ball. Or, Sharapova attempted to close the point in her favor and flunked the test with another error.
Radwanska is a spinoff of Martina Hingis, which is delightful to watch and witness. The Pole dances with power yet slip slides her way to the podium by using every iota of her experiences to displace her opponent's rhythm. In fact, she hit her first winner after an hour of play had passed.
Naturally Sharapova had more winners than Radwanska; however, the Russian, who was runner-up in 2005, 2006 and 2011, finished with 45 unforced errors to 10 from Radwanska. That difference, no matter how well Sharapova served, altered the scoreline.
The WTA Premier Event title is Radwanska's fifth. She is now 9-2 in finals, an accomplishment she should be proud of.
For Sharapova fans, the final was difficult to watch. Surely their favorite could evoke a difference especially against those serves clocked at, gasp, 69 m.p.h.?
But remember when retired WTA champion Elena Dementieva struggled with her serve? The wandering toss followed by the chase that ensued for the ball. All those slice serves landed the same way in her opponent's box, and not even a sharp Jennifer Capriati could snap off winners. Neither could Sharapova today when faced with the exact situation, although she tried, especially in the second set after a quick chat with her coach, Thomas Hogstedt.
To think that a diminutive player such as Radwanska -- she's five-eight compared to Sharapova's six-two -- could lasso the power of her opponents in Miami and come up with the title should make fans, the press and coaches pause.
Racquet head speed is not the Holy Grail. And screaming louder doesn't apply more pace to the ball. Yet hard work and variety could open avenues for young players who have streamlined their games to fit the power trend when, in some cases, they could use some ingenuity to win matches.
Cookie cutter tennis academies are certainly trying to amend their strategic curriculums, one would hope, as the number of junior tennis star hopefuls reach for success. Agnieszka Radwanska is one role model they could emulate. Steady. Understated. Consistent. Flexible, both tactically and physically. She is not the answer, like the final say in how to build a perfect tennis player. However, she does show us that shear power cannot withstand the brilliance of consistency and a true belief in, and execution, that an alternative style of tennis does win big titles.
Congratulations to Agnieszka Radwanska, winner of the 2012 women's singles title at The Sony Ericsson Open.