Agnieszka Radwanska was a contradiction - she was the most imaginative and creative player of her generation, and yet so risk-averse that she had a really hard time trying anything new on the practice court.
Tennis fans will remember Radwanska for playing shots that others wouldn't have even thought of - sometimes on purpose and sometimes when reacting to an unusual situation. In an era of bam-bam tennis, Radwanska created so much with her head and her hands, playing tennis on the fly, and just letting it happen. What people might not have realised was that Radwanska - who has announced her retirement - was not one to venture out of her comfort zone.
She didn't want to miss, not even in practice. That was why she didn't like to hit the ball hard when she felt she couldn’t control it. It's funny because when she practised she was a Steady Eddie. She didn't do anything special. I worked with her for a few months and, on the practice court, she was happy playing it safe. When most players practise, they are at their most imaginative and creative - they do stuff that they wouldn't normally even try on a match court. Radwanska was the total opposite. In matches, she would hit shots on the fly that she had never done in practice. When she had to be, she was the most imaginative player there was.
In matches, Radwanska would play the shot of the day, the shot of the month, the shot of the year. I think she made the highlight reel more often than any other player on the WTA Tour. She was quick on her feet and quick with her mind; she would just come up with stuff. She was hitting shots that people didn't expect, often even surprising herself. Then there would be times when her shot selection would not be ideal but so many times she would bail herself out by coming up with magic. Given her intolerance for risk, that's really peculiar, when you think about it.
One of the reasons for Radwanska's popularity, I think, was that fans could relate to how she played. She didn't really have a big weapon. She wasn't overpowering opponents. Playing against was more like death by a 1000 cuts. She would just pick players apart. But fans could relate to most of her shots. Basically, Radwanska played club tennis at a very high pro level. That's not disparaging her - au contraire. Spectators could imagine themselves possibly hitting most of those shots and they certainly could admire them. In a time of power tennis, she really stood out with her variety and shotmaking. She was playing a kind of old-school tennis.
Looking back at her career, you would probably say she overachieved - it's hard to accomplish as much as she did without any weapons, though you could say that perhaps she could have hit the ball a little harder.
Tennis will miss Radwanska a lot as she was a fan favourite for so many years. But these days one can always watch the shots back on YouTube. If you get nostalgic, you can see all that magic stuff all over again. My favourite shot of hers was when she was covering the line at the net, and was about to hit a forehand volley. But then the ball struck the top of the net and she had to improvise. As she was moving hard to her right, she had to spin backwards all the way around and - this was a completely blind shot - hit a backhand volley into the open court for a winner. Improvising on the fly with a shot she never hit before - how fun is that?
Agnieszka Radwanska will always be fondly remembered by the fans as one of a kind, and there aren't too many who can say that. We all wish her a happy life after tennis.