Agnieszka Radwanska enjoying outsider status at French Open


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Agnieszka Radwanska enjoying outsider status at French Open

Radwanska is seeded No.3 this fortnight but no one has been discussing her chances of lifting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in two weeks time.
Third seeds don’t usually ghost in under the radar but Radwanska has never been known for her clay-court prowess.

Last year was the first time she made it to the quarter-finals in Paris, eventually losing to Sara Errani.

However her form on the dirt so far this spring will have given her many fans quiet confidence that she can at least replicate last year’s run to the last eight.

She reached the semi-finals in Madrid, notching up wins over fast rising youngsters Eugenie Bouchard and Caroline Garcia and defeated 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone on her home turf in Rome.

And she began with a convincing performance in the opening match of the tournament on Philippe Chatrier, finishing extremely strongly to beat Shuai Zhang 6-3, 6-0 after a tricky start which saw eight breaks of serve in a row.

Radwanska has struggled in the past in the often damp conditions in Paris.

It’s easier for bigger, stronger players to expose her lack of power from the back of the court when the balls are wet and heavy but she says that she’s attempting to tackle the issue by being more aggressive than usual.
“I think you just have to hit the ball a bit harder when it’s slow and damp,” she said.

“I think the serve is really not the powerful weapon as on the faster courts. Return of serve becomes even more important when it’s like this. But the weather can change very quickly here so you never know what it’s going to be like.

You just have to adjust and remember it’s the same for both players.”

Radwanska admits in the past that she hasn’t really believed in her ability to go deep in the biggest clay-court events and during her run last year she sounded like a player who felt she had nothing really to lose.

But having finally reached the last eight in Paris, there might be more to come.

“I'm third seed here, so I can't really say I’m one of the outsiders anymore,” she laughed. “You all know that clay is not really my favorite surface.

But I'm trying. Making the quarter-finals for the first time last year was a big success for me. But I don’t want to set that as my limit. I have a few more years to try and do better and better here. So I’m going to do everything in my power to do that and actually my clay-court season this year hasn’t been that bad so hopefully I can have a good run.”

Radwanska has been rather fortunate with the draw, avoiding landing her nemesis Maria Sharapova (seeded only seventh this year after her time out with injury at the end of 2013) in the same quarter.

Instead she’s seeded to face Angelique Kerber in the last eight, a match she would see as very winnable.

But there’s a long way to go until then. She next plays the winner of the match between hard-hitting Frenchwoman Mathilde Johansson and talented young Czech Karolina Pliskova, and there’s a potential fourth round showdown against either crowd darling Alize Cornet or the elegant Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.

After defeating Zhang Radwanska was able to catch a little of the clash between Venus Williams and Belinda Bencic on Sunday afternoon and she revealed she’s among the growing ranks of admirers of the young Swiss girl’s talent.

“There’s a lot of really good young players coming up,” she said.

“I saw Bencic play quite a bit in Rome. I think that she can play really good. I think we are gonna see her much more often in the future. She can do really everything on court. You know, going down the lines, playing aggressive, good serve as well, and she's still young.

I think she can be really tough.”
Williams played Bencic in her first professional match on the tour back in 2012 and she praised her for being such a fierce competitor for one so young.
“I think she has a great attitude, and it will take her a long way.

I think when I played her, it was really one of her first professional matches, so obviously that's a complete different experience. Even then she played well. Now she’s just doing everything better, serving, returning, more experience helps a lot.”

Venus is now set for a potential third round clash with her sister.

If it goes ahead, it will be the 25th time they have met on the tour with Serena currently leading the head-to-head 14-10. Serena has won the last five matches going back to 2009 and with Venus no longer a force at the top of the game due to her struggles with the autoimmune disorder Sjordjen’s Syndrome, it is hard to see her being able to challenge.

“We both try to bring our best game just like in other matches, and I think we both know we have to play even better because it's against each other,” she said.