A Friend, And A Potential Foe

Caroline Wozniacki is a well-known player in New Haven, however one of her best friends on Tour might be slightly less recognizable to fans in the Elm City. That has been changing this year though, as Agnieszka Radwanska has catapulted up the rankings, and is the No. 1 seed this week at the New Haven Open. The two have been friends since childhood and it shows not only through their similar games but also through their equally sunny dispositions.

The two playfully teased each other during a press event where they were challenged to answer questions about each other’s favorite ice cream flavors, bands and alternate occupations.

“Remember when we were kids?” said Radwanska. “And we were saying about our future jobs if we were not going to play tennis? Remember? For sure you remember!”

A comical back-and-forth ensued in which Wozniacki recounted a post-career plan involving 14-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams.

“I was going to say something with nails,” said Caroline, pointing out Agnieszka’s impeccable blue nails. “Because that’s what you said later, with you, me and Serena opening a nail salon.” (That wasn’t right either. Her alternate career path would see Agnieszka as the back-up dancer while Caroline sang).

While the two friends laughed off-court, they might end up battling each other on-court later this week in the semifinals as they are on the same half of the draw.

Radwanska has a knack for taking her opponents out of their comfort zones with strategically-timed drop shots, lobs and approaches to the net.

But after four years of circling around the upper echelon of the WTA, she has had a breakout year in 2012, reaching the Wimbledon final and achieving a career-high ranking of No. 2 in the world, where she currently sits.

“To be honest, I think it’s just (having more) experience,” she said. “I really didn’t change anything. I was just working hard in the off-season and I think when I went on the court I was just feeling good and confident on pretty much every surface. At the beginning of the year I was already playing very good tennis against top players. I just want to keep going.”

Last year, she lost a tight match in the second round of the New Haven Open to qualifier Petra Cetkovska. What seemed to be an improbable result, however, turned out to be anything but a fluke as Cetkovska picked off two other seasoned veterans, Marion Bartoli and Li Na, en route to the finals.

Tonight, Radwanska faces another qualifier, Olga Govortsova of Belarus, for a spot in the quarterfinals. Radwanska won both previous meetings, but the two haven’t played in over a year.

Also looming in her quarter is Russian Maria Kirilenko, who has had a breakout season of her own this year. The 2012 Olympic Doubles Bronze Medalist also reached the Bronze Medal match in singles, losing to World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. She is sitting at her career-high ranking of World No. 14 and her game is on fire.

At Wimbledon this year, Kirilenko and Radwanska squared off in the quarterfinals in one of the best matches of the fortnight. The three-set battle progressed through rain delays and finally fell in Radwanska’s favor. In fact, four of the eight matches these two have played have gone the distance, although Radwanska has come away winning six of them.

With five titles in the last year, Radwanska is always a threat to go deep. Her level of play and experience on-court have grown exponentially, which will be key in getting through the tough road to her first New Haven Open title.

In order to do that, however, she will likely have to battle past Wozniacki. Although these two are great friends off the court, the smiles will surely fade to focused glares from across the net as each young star fights to reach the final.

By Jeff Watson

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