DUBAI, UAE - Agnieszka Radwanska was nearly gone in the first round but found a way to survive, and now she's the new champion at the prestigious Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships - as well as the new World No.5.
The No.5-seeded Radwanska had a rocky start to the week, having to fight back from 5-3 down in the third set to beat Canadian qualifier Aleksandra Wozniak. But she made it through that and moved smoothly through the rest of the draw, the only blip coming in the semifinals against Jelena Jankovic, losing the second set - she rebounded well, bageling the No.8 seed in the third set.
Elsewhere, Julia Goerges was putting together one of the best weeks of her career in her very first time playing Dubai. She took out several marquee names - former No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova, former No.5 Daniela Hantuchova and former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki - to make the final and get a chance to avenge a 61 61 loss to Radwanska in their only previous meeting, last month.
This time, Goerges played Radwanska much closer. Radwanska broke in the first game of the match and took a 4-2 lead, but Goerges broke back and stayed even to 5-all before Radwanska broke in a five-deuce game and took the set, 7-5; the story was similar in the second set, as Radwanska got two early breaks, Goerges got one back but Radwanska closed it out, 6-4. Final score, 75 64.
"I was pretty close to losing in the first round, so I'm extremely happy right now," Radwanska said. "Tonight I think I was just better in a couple points, to be honest. In the important moments I was more consistent. The conditions were a little bit difficult during the match, but I stayed calm until the end.
"Julia's forehand is a very big weapon. It's just going so fast, and sometimes I'd be moving to it right away and the ball was already behind me."
"Agnieszka's a tough player and I was close to winning both sets," Goerges said after the match. "There were a few balls I missed, but it was still the way I should play it. You need to dictate the game by yourself and that's what I did. It wasn't enough today but it was still the right direction for my game.
"She doesn't give you anything. She doesn't do any mistakes at all. And when she does a few, it's at 15-all or 15-0, not in the important moments."
Radwanska is projected to move from No.6 to No.5 now, a new career-high. "It's great, but it's still far rom being No.1," the Polish No.1 said. "It looks pretty close, but it's still far. But I'm not really going to think about it too much. I'm going to keep playing my game and try to keep up my good tennis, especially in big events like this. I just want to enjoy my tennis and try winning matches."
Goerges' phenomenal week will see her rise from No.19 back to her career-high of No.16. "I'm not disappointed. It was a big step in the right direction for me," the German said. "I was leaving everything on the court and she's a Top 5 player now. If you lose 5 and 4 in one hour 40, you shouldn't be disappointed. It gives me a lot of confidence to see I'm close to those players and can beat them. It was about two or three points in the end. I'm very proud of this week."
Radwanska collected her eighth WTA title, her fifth at the Premier level (also Eastbourne in 2008 and Carlsbad, Tokyo and Beijing in 2011); she is now 8-2 in her career in WTA finals. Goerges is now an even 2-2 in WTA finals.
What's next for Radwanska? "I don't have much time now. In three or four hours I have a flight to Kuala Lumpur," she said, referring to the BMW Malaysian Open. "Everything is pretty last minute. But I think it's a good problem!"