For Agnieszka Radwanska, 13 was a lucky number on Sunday night at the Australian Open, as the world No.4 took her 13th consecutive win of the 2013 season in a straight-sets drubbing of Ana Ivanovic, 6-2 6-4.
Not only was it Radwanska’s 13th win in a row, it also marked her 25th and 26th consecutive sets, the Polish No.1 embarking on a streak that only Serena Williams can top as far as wins in a row on the pro women’s tour (the American has 20 straight victories dating back to last year’s US Open).
But the way that Radwanska beat Ivanovic at Rod Laver Arena – losing just six games and winning in 70 minutes – sent a signal to the rest of the women’s field remaining at Melbourne Park: Aga’s on a mission.
“What can I say? I'm just very happy that I can play on the very high level,” Radwanska said.
“Already 13 matches not even losing a set. I hope I can keep going three more.”
“She took Serena into a third set in Wimbledon,” Ivanovic said, noting Radwanska could challenge any of the big hitters: Serena, Victoria Azarenka or Maria Sharapova.
“She's a player – it's no secret – who doesn't make too many winners, but she has good hands. She can really get the opponents to feel a little awkward, you know, make you go for too much. That's her strength.”
If 2012 was the year that Radwanska solidified herself as a top-five player, then 2013 would be the one where she expects herself to win a major title. The aforementioned Wimbledon final with Williams was her introduction to many mainstream sports fans, but in the tennis realm, Radwanska has been steadily climbing the totem pole for years.
Many saw Radwanska’s 2007 US Open win over Sharapova as her breakout effort. Then just 18, she down the defending champion in New York in three sets.
Li Na, the 2011 French Open champion, awaits Radwanska in the quarterfinals, with a Sharapova encounter looming in the semifinals. Her run to the Wimbledon final has given her the belief that three more – even if they include Li, Sharapova, Azarenka or Serena – is realistic.
“A major final is a little different final than any other tournament,” Radwanska said.
“Of course I have a lot more confidence after two titles that I won the last two weeks, so definitely, yes.”
But Radwanska was 0-6 in 2012 against Azarenka, and suffered a tight three-set loss to Sharapova at the WTA Season-Ending Championships before being drubbed by Williams in the semifinals. It’s a big ask to break through against the big three, but Radwanska aims to do it with a crafty, creative game.
“She was hitting softer than I thought,” Ivanovic explained with surprise after the loss. “I couldn’t get my timing. She was changing the rhythm, as well.”
That rhythm change has earned her comparisons to Martina Hingis, and should she get a shot at Serena in the final, she’ll employ a similar game plan as the Swiss Miss did.
“She's placing [her serve] really well,” Ivanovic described. “She's obviously very talented and has great hands. [Her serve] is hard to read. She can do either side of ball toss, so I guess that's why she's successful at it.”
Radwanska will look to make moves on her service games, even though it’s the part of her repertoire that’s underrated by opponents.
As is her power when she chooses to use it.
“She sort of, you know, gives you time,” Ivanovic added.
“And then all of a sudden, she goes for it.”