Tomasz Wiktorowski on Aga’s Transition, Fed Cup, and More

“It’s a difficult time for Agnieszka Radwańska because she has to try to play more offensively.”

From an interview by Hubert Zdankiewicz in the Polska Times.

Is this the end of Wiktorowski?

I think I’ve already answered this question.

There was a poll about it on one of the big tennis sites.  It’s a result of Robert Radwański’s words—he said after the match against Russia that the captain should be dismissed.  (See here.)

I can only say this: I can be dismissed either by the board of the Polish Tennis Federation or by my team.  At the moment, we’re preparing for the match against Switzerland.  After that, I will make a decision as to what’s next.

Neither the PTF nor the team think it’s necessary?

You’d have to ask them.  I can only add this: if anybody wants to make an assessment of my work as a team captain based on results, then that’s OK.  You have the right to do it.  I’d only ask you not to judge on one match but on the whole body of work— where the team was when we started and where it is now [before the loss to Russia, the team won seven consecutive matches and advanced from Group II Europe / Africa to the World Group – Editor].

All right, let’s try to look at the Russia match calmly, with a few days behind us [this conversation took place on Thursday – Editor].

My assessment is exactly the same as it was just after the match.  On the one hand, we are disappointed because we didn’t expect an easy victory but we did expect a closer match, for sure.  More fight.  On the other hand, you have to remember who we played against.  Everybody knows how strong Sharapova is, especially when she she plays as well as she has been recently.  We also know that Agnieszka’s chances against Kuznetsova were fifty-fifty, even if she’s a better player.  She’s always had problems playing against her; she had to fight to win. She beat her last year in Madrid after saving match points.  If you add a recovering-from-physical-problems Ula (Radwańska) to the mix, you know it was hard to be optimistic.  We had the venue and the Polish spectators on our side, though, so we expected more.

It’s a pity Agnieszka lost to Kuznetsova.

I agree.  If we had won this one point, the match could have gone either way. When Agnieszka went from 2-5 to 5-5 in the Sharapova match, I remembered the WTA Finals in Singapore [she was losing 1-5 and won the tiebreak – Editor].

I think Sharapova remembered it, too.  She started to play more passively, committed more unforced errors.

Maria is human and she has moments of weakness.  You can beat her, but she was brilliant in the last two games.  She played with no errors.  You can say that Agnieszka had her chances— but there is no “if” in sport.  The match is finished. We know the score and have to play on.

Is it possible to beat Switzerland in April and stay in the World Group?

Everybody is beatable.  It depends on their team selection.  I’m thinking of Martina Hingis, who plays only doubles matches recently but who has had very good results [she won the Australian Open in mixed doubles – Editor].  Then the last match, the one that’ll decide the result, could be really close.

But the singles will give us an advantage?

You could say that when you look at the rankings, but the rankings don’t play matches.  It’s not an enormous advantage, anyway.  If you take into account experience and form, then you can say that yes, we are the favourites—on paper.

We will play on a home court—another plus for us?

To be honest, home matches haven’t been very good for us recently; so, judging from the results only, I’m not so sure.  On the other hand, it’s always better to play for your own fans, no matter where the tournament is held.

It will be right after the Katowice tournament which is very fortunate, as you won’t have to leave the country.

For me, the only thing I don’t like about it is the fact that Agnieszka should have more of a break.  For example, if she wins in Katowice, she will have to play too many matches.  On the other hand, representing Poland has always been very important for her.

Contrary to what some people think.

You’re saying that, but it’s true.  Suffice it to say, she’s never refused to play in Fed Cup.  I remember she wasn’t supposed to go to Israel because of an injury and operation.  She went anyway because Ula couldn’t play.  She’s played all matches and she’ll play against Switzerland as well.  She’ll give a hundred percent.  We have had more intense periods of play in the past.

The World Group is the place for you to be?

We have to fight for it, so we’ll see in April.  Before I became the captain, Poland was in Group II Europe / Africa; you can’t fall lower than that.  But the Radwańska sisters started to play, we moved up, and got into the elite group.  So, maybe it is our place, even though we couldn’t win against Russia.  It doesn’t mean we can’t win the next time.  Ula will improve, for sure.  So will Agnieszka, because she’s in a transition period right now—a very difficult one.

Why is it a transition period – is it because Martina Navratilova has joined the team?

I wouldn’t call the collaboration with Martina a transition period—it could last for a very, very long time.  It’s a transition period because Agnieszka has to try to play more offensively.  As a consequence, we assumed a possible dip in form, because it means modifying a game style which she has been honing for years.

A game style which has gained her a lot of victories.

Correct.  That’s why nobody is talking about a revolution—it’s supposed to be an evolution, a modification.  For years, we have been saying that Agnieszka has to play more aggressively.  Now, we’ve decided that it’s time to do it.  She may play worse for a time, but it’ll allow us to reach our goals.  We know what they are—winning grand slams—and we know that in the course of seven matches, we can come up against an opponent who is in form and won’t send most of the balls out just because a player on the other side of the net is super solid.  There will always be someone you’ll have to beat, who won’t give you anything.  That’s what the training sessions with Martina are for.

Do you think there are enough of them?  After the Australian Open, she’ll join you in March, in Indian Wells.  There are tournaments in Dubai and Doha in the meantime.

The fact that she’s not here doesn’t mean she doesn’t know what’s going on.  We are in touch all the time, we send her films from our training sessions, and she sends back feedback, which we use during the following sessions.  It shows really well that Martina is very much involved in what she’s doing.

Too much sometimes – I mean the way she criticized Agnieszka in the Tennis Channel studio after her defeat in Melbourne.

She admitted she said too much, so let’s not go back to it.  Agnieszka thinks the same.

Do you?

I don’t want to comment on that.  But I have to, I gather?

You don’t have to do anything.  It’s just a question.

So, I won’t comment.  Agnieszka did and it’s enough.  I understand Martina’s intentions, though—a coach has to shake a player up sometimes.

Some think it’s high time to achieve the goals.  Serena Williams is closer to the end than to the beginning of her career, but Agnieszka will soon be 26. There’s a new generation of young players coming…

They are already here: Bouchard, Muguruza, Svitolina, Halep… There are a lot of players and soon we’ll have a generation change at the top.  It won’t be easy for Agnieszka to stay where she is, let alone to start winning slams.  That’s why we decided to change things.  We have to take risks because [simply] maintaining the level causes regression.

Does Agnieszka share your opinion?

I think it’s obvious.  We couldn’t possibly change anything without her consent. Agnieszka has a very strong personality.

Just like her father. Why does he dislike you so much?

You’d have to ask him.

I have. He says it’s because you were disloyal by signing a contract with Amica behind his back. He said it again in an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza recently.

I didn’t read it, so I can’t really comment.  I’ll just say this: I don’t think I have ever been disloyal to him, so let’s give it a rest.

Are you annoyed by it?

No, I just do my job.  I think this whole situation could be uncomfortable for Agnieszka, especially when the media are involved.  It would be easier if she had support from all sides.

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