Poland has always produced great tennis talent. From trailblazer Wojciech Fibak in the 1970s to the towering presence of Jerzy Janowicz, and serving prowess of Marta Domachowska, the country has enjoyed an abundance of talent on the court.
But standing out above all others is Kraków-born Agnieszka Radwańska. Holding the coveted record as the first Polish player in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam final, the agile right-hander would ultimately go on to win 20 career singles titles as well as the end-of-season WTA Finals in 2015.
Odds in her favour
While Radwańska may be remembered as the losing finalist at Wimbledon in 2012, her run to the final was unexpected. That made the achievement even greater. Maria Sharapova was at the top of her game that year. Most bookmakers tipped her for the title. Understandably, tennis betting tallies with the current world rankings. World number one Aryna Sabalenka is at 9/2 to win the next Grand Slam in Australia, for example. In 2012, it was number one seed Sharapova and second seed Victoria Azarenka who were expected to go all the way.
While Radwańska was seeded third, other more experienced Wimbledon players such as three-time US Open winner Kim Clijsters and defending champion Petra Kvitová were heavily favoured.
Playing Serena Williams in her pomp, she fought hard to take the final into the third set. While she would lose 1-6, 7-5, 2-6, the loss did not define a glittering career that saw her break new ground for Polish tennis.
Her WTA Finals win was a first for the country, and she’d play a crucial role in Poland’s Hopman Cup triumph in 2015. Despite retiring at the age of 29, her achievements have seen her described as one of the greatest players to never have won a major.
A champion in an era of champions
Winning the number of singles titles she did in an era of such talent across the women’s game should not be understated. Anabel Croft, the former British number one, said her “ability to move opponents around the court” was a joy to watch, and praised her understanding of in-game tactics.
Katrina Adams, the former president and CEO of the United States Tennis Association, acknowledged what Radwańska lacked in power she made up for in intelligence. She called her a “genius on court” and said her strength was being one of the “greatest anticipators” of the modern game.
Despite persistent injuries contributing to her decision to walk away from the sport before she turned 30, her career earnings of $27.5m make her the 7th all-time earner within the women’s game.
A crowd-pleaser, her speed to chase down seemingly lost causes and array of trick shots saw her named the WTA’s Fan Favourite Singles Player six times in a row between 2011 and 2016. Radwańska, who enjoyed a career-high ranking of number two in the world, was also awarded the Polish Gold Cross of Merit for her accomplishments in sport.