Radwanska Conquers Singapore for 17th Title

After losing her opening two matches in Singapore, the semifinals–let alone the title–seemed like a distant memory for the crafty 26-year-old from Poland. However, in the midst of all the madness, Radwanska conquers Singapore, making the the near impossibility a reality within a matter of days. It is her 17th career title and the biggest of her career.

She started out her Year-End Championships campaign against Maria Sharapova by taking the first set 6-4. The Russian proceeded to raise her game, winning the next set and leading by 5*-2 in the third set. Radwanska had her chances to make it back to 5-5 in the third but a drive volley hit back to the Russian on a break point cost her dearly.

Next up she played Flavia Pennetta of Italy. The Italian, who had recently claimed the US Open, was playing her last tournament of her career and she was hoping to go out in style. Radwanska built a 4-1 lead before things began to go south for her as Pennetta slowly became more engaged in the match. She stole the opening set from Radwanska in a tiebreaker and played a flawless return game at 2-2 in which she hit four clean winners. She closed Radwanska out 7-6(5) 6-4 with 22 winners and only eight unforced errors in the second set. From here, Radwanska’s chances seemed done and dusted.

She played her final round-robin match against Simona Halep, which seemed more like a formality than anything else. After the Romanian broke early on, Radwanska fought back to keep the match on even terms. She fell down 1-5 in the first set tiebreaker in which she felt she had nothing to lose from there so she decided to just go for it. It payed off as she stepped way inside the baseline to take advantage of some short balls to reel off the next six points. The set point featured a grueling rally which showcased Halep’s struggle to close points off in the forecourt, particularly when around the net. The second set went by in a breeze in which Halep’s lack of mental fortitude was evident as she seemed to throw in the towel winning only one game in the set. Radwanska now needed to hope Sharapova beat Flavia Pennetta in straight sets to advance to the semifinals and, miraculously for her, she did.

The big test came in the semifinal against Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain who had beaten her four times this year, three of which have been three setters. The first set was a see-saw as Muguruza’s big flashy game went up and down and eventually saw her take the first set in a close tiebreaker. That seemed to take a toll on her as she seemed to wear down physically afterwards and Radwanska upped her aggression. Radwanska took the second set 6-3 and looked to be running away with it at 4-1 in the third. Muguruza’s never-say-die attitude came into play as she got the match back on even terms from there. Despite that, Radwanska was the one who had just a little more left in the tank to close the match out 7-5 in the third.

The final against Petra Kvitova was historic as both players had gone 1-2 in round robin play yet found themselves playing for the title. Kvitova started the match off sluggish and with a slurry of errors which allowed the Pole to claim the first set 6-2. Kvitova found her range when she was down 1-3 in the second set and hit a series of brutal shots from the baseline, winning the second set 6-4. Momentum seemed to be on her side in the third as well as she raced off to a 2-0 lead in the third. She couldn’t maintain the momentum, however, as Radwanska won six of the last seven games to claim the title. Kvitova only managed to hold serve once in that final set, and had 41 winners to 53 unforced errors in total in the match. Radwanska was much more tidy, hitting 15 winners to five unforced errors in total.

2015 was not the best start for Radwanska; there were high hopes for her after hiring Martina Navratilova as a consultant in an attempt to add something new to her game. But after losing a three-set match to Venus Williams at the Australian Open, everything seemed to go downhill from there for her. Following a three-set loss to Carla Suarez Navarro at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, she had a measly 9-8 record on the year. The clay season didn’t bring much to celebrate either as she fell in the first round of Rolland Garros to Annika Beck of Germany.

The grass season seemed to bring out some positives, as she reached the semifinals of Nottingham and the finals of Eastbourne. The first big result of the season, however, came with a semifinal run at Wimbledon where she would lose to Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza in three sets. She would need to wait until Tokyo for her first title of the season, and after that, took off with some consistent results that saw her qualify for the WTA Championships at last.

Nobody seemed to expect much of her though. She had to fight back from the brink all year long. At the end of Roland Garros, she was ranked #26 in the Race to Singapore; by the end of the year, she’s at the top of the tennis world.

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