She, too, has a little sister on the WTA Tour and, well, that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Agnieszka Radwanska, fifth in the world ranking, is evidently a gifted player but her approach is constructed on guile and using her competitors’ power against them – tennis as judo – a marked contrast with former Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, her opponent Sunday.
Rogers Cup tournament director Eugene Lapierre dubbed Radwanska a sort of “anti-star,” metronomically consistent, minimally flamboyant, which helps explain how she negated the abilities of one of the more lustrous lights in the tennis firmament in the final.
The 34-year-old Williams, whose game has enjoyed something of a renaissance this week, served first and roared out of the gate, slamming 200-kilometre-an-hour serves and drilling forehands.
After Radwanska held, a pattern began to emerge: Williams missing with first serves, Radwanska gaining toeholds in long rallies.
Williams’ serve was broken twice in succession and she was quickly down 1-4 to Radwanska, whose own first-serve efficiency hovered around 90 per cent.
The American worked herself into a position to exert some pressure and tie the set in the eighth game, but couldn’t convert on a pair of break points thanks to a couple of Radwanska service winners and a forehand that found the net.
The first set tilted in the 25-year-old Radwanska’s favour, 6-4.
The second followed a similar script: Radwanska serving crisply and making educated shots to extend rallies, Williams missing serves (she made only 46 per cent of first serves for the match) and hammering the ball into the net or long.
On the day, Williams would commit 41 unforced errors, Radwanska just eight.
“I just was trying to use my chances. Wherever … I could really go for it, that’s what I was trying to do,” Radwanska said.
With the older player visibly running out of steam in the late going, Radwanska punctuated her 6-4, 6-2 victory with an ace – typically, it was the result of placement, not strength.
“Of course, I can’t really serve like Venus … this is my tactic, you know, just to find the right spot, even when the serve is much shorter,” she said afterward. “But I think this is the way I try to always find a way to win the matches.”
And win she did, notching her first tournament victory of the season and improve her standing for the season-ending WTA Finals event in Singapore.
“I’ve always liked Canada, but now I think I just love Canada,” she told a courtside interviewer.
Reaching the finals of a big tournament – the week set a new world attendance mark for a one-week WTA event – evidently spurs the warm, fuzzy feelings.
Despite missing out on kissing the winner’s trophy, Williams went so far as to compare Montreal to Rome, her favourite city in the world – it’s hard to over-estimate the point to which that comment will endear her to tennis fans in this town.
Although she was already the clear fan favourite.
“I didn’t expect that kind of support. I felt like I was from, you know, Quebec. I might be a long-lost soul from Quebec,” she said. “My favourite city has always been Rome. As I’ve been going around the city, I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, this is really competing with Rome,’ I just love it here.”
She added that “as much as I love Toronto, I wish the women’s tournament was here every year” – give the woman a key to the city.
The former world No. 1 apparently enjoyed her Quebec sojourn to the point she will return in September for the National Bank Cup in Quebec City, a $250,000 (U.S.) event players from the top-20 often skip.
Those given to literary analysis will view Williams’s remarks on Saturday about how it would be a shame to stumble in the final – they came shortly after she beat sister Serena, the top seed and world number one, for the first time in five attempts – as some not-so-subtle foreshadowing.
Williams played six matches this week, one more than Radwanska, who had a first-round bye, and found her reserves of energy depleted on Sunday.
“It’s been a really long week … against her you really have to be patient. Today I just didn’t have everything to be patient and really work the point,” Williams said.
When such things happen to the 45-time WTA title winner it’s easy to leap to the conclusion the autoimmune condition she was found to have in 2011 – Sjogren’s syndrome – is to blame.
Not the case, she said.
“Instead of unreasonable fatigue that’s unconquerable, just the opposite really: a fatigue from too much success … I ran out of energy because I was winning too many matches. I haven’t had that problem in a long time,” she smiled.