Agnieszka Radwanska is returning to Australia for the first time in five years, where she will take on a brand-new role in her career. The former World No.2 and six-time Fan Favorite Singles Player of the Year will co-captain the Polish team at the inaugural United Cup.
Radwanska and her husband, Polish Billie Jean King Cup captain Dawid Celt, will pair up to coach the squad for the mixed-team event which starts Thursday, December 29th.
"It's very exciting, for sure," 2012 Wimbledon finalist Radwanska told Tennis Australia, in advance of the event. "You can see a lot of good teams, big teams, combined with a lot of players also as a captain. I think it's going to be a really big one, so we can't wait."
Poland, of course, will be one of the biggest teams in the field. Not only is World No.1 Iga Swiatek bringing her staggering form to the tournament, but the squad boasts a Top 10 player on the men's side as well with Hubert Hurkacz.
"It's going to be a challenge for me as well to coach such good players like Iga and Hubert," Radwanska said. "Playing is one thing, but sitting on the bench is another thing. I don't know what is more difficult to be honest, so I guess we'll see there."
Winning a mixed-team event is one level of difficulty, but Radwanska has already excelled in that department: she teamed with Jerzy Janowicz to win the mixed-team Hopman Cup in 2015. And Radwanska identified that there has been a relatively seamless transition between generations.
"It's great that we don't have any gap," Radwanska said. "I think [Polish] tennis, it's bigger than years ago. I think now the kids and the parents and the people believe that you can play good tennis and you can play on that level. ... I think I started, a little bit, this kind of big boom for [Polish] tennis, and now Iga is continuing with Hubert, so it cannot be any better.
"I think it's the best when you play and you have someone on your side, and then now they have the same feeling when they're in one team. They know they're strong, they're good, they can put all the power together and win events like this."
Radwanska also paid respect to the atypical format of the event, which will start with a round-robin group stage over the first six days, and features mixed doubles as well as singles matches.
"Events like this, it's always very exciting, especially when you can combine men and women in one team," Radwanska said. "You can enjoy tennis more, to be all together in one bench, cheering for each other and, you know, jumping there on the chairs. ... I had a couple of events like this, and it's really something that you want to play and want to do because it's just different from any other tournaments.
"It's especially nice here when you have points as well for the ranking. So you're playing for points, and you know you're going to play a couple of matches: I think it's also great preparation before the Australian Open. So this kind of event is perfect, especially in the beginning of the season."
Radwanska also looks forward to spearheading a team led by dominant World No.1 Swiatek, who finished last year with a 67-9 win-loss record. "Unfortunately, we missed each other on tour," Radwanska said. "But I think United Cup is also going to make us to spend so much time together, so it's very exciting."
Despite putting a lot of focus on her home life with her husband and two-year-old son after her retirement, Radwanska admits she still has the tennis bug, especially when playing Legends events at Grand Slams.
"Playing Legends, for me, it's something perfect," she said. "You can see all good friends on court, but also we can play some matches, so the adrenaline is still there. ... Of course it's not every week or every couple of weeks, but something that I can still enjoy tennis and be part of the tennis."
And that adrenaline will extend to leading the Polish effort at the United Cup. "I think wherever you go, you want to win, right?" Radwanska said. "I think in the beginning of the year, you never know what's going to happen. But, well, I would love to hold the trophy."