The Pole enjoyed her best-ever season in 2012, winning the biggest title of her career in Miami – and scoring a rare win over Maria Sharapova in the final – as well as hitting world No.2 after a trip to her first major final at Wimbledon.
Strengths: A born tennis player in the Martina Hingis mould, Radwanska is a must-watch for tennis purists. Her anticipation, control of the racquet, deft hands and ability to mix up the play represent a contrast to the cookie-cutter, baseline modern player. Despite being a waif of a player, Radwanska has the ability to hold her own during baseline rallies. She can soak up power, most notable for the reflexed crouching/squatting shots she hits with her knees almost touching the ground in response to opponents’ powerful returns and groundstrokes.
Weaknesses: Power is paramount in the modern game, and the Pole comes up short in this department. Her serve, while dependable and well placed, is somewhat a powder-puff delivery, ripe for attacking. And her shots lack the necessary penetration to really trouble the big hitters and good movers on the tour. When a power-hitter is on her game – like Serena was against Radwanska in the first and third sets of their Wimbledon final – the result can be devastating.
Opportunities: Three times a quarterfinalist at Melbourne Park including in 2011 and 2012, Radwanska’s improved ranking and higher seeding should afford her a better draw and a chance to improve upon those results. And a win along the way against either Vika, Maria or Serena – Radwanska went 1-9 against the WTA’s top trio in 2012 – would help cement the legitimacy of her high ranking.
Threats: Of Radwanska’s main rivals, she’ll be most hoping to avoid Azarenka, with the Belarusian defeating her in all six meetings in 2012. But any big hitter who finds their form – think Serena and Venus, Sharapova, Kvitova, Stosur, Li et al – could present problems for the Pole as she aims to capture the first major title of her career.
Nicole Pratt, former world No.35 and Tennis Australia’s National Women’s Coach:
“Emotionally she has to feel good and be confident when she's playing a big hitter. She's never going to have a big first serve, but if she can get a high percentage of them in, place them well and start the point 60-40, she's got a shot … High percentage of first serves is a must. To me, she is a lock in to reach a semifinal of a Grand Slam this year.”