Jakub Ciastoń: It seemed that in a small tournament in Katowice, in front of her own audience, Agnieszka would try to rebuild her form and confidence in this season, but the semifinal she lost to Camila Giorgi brought us all to earth. What’s happening to Agnieszka?
Tomasz Wiktorowski: For the last four years we were all happy and sometimes on cloud nine because Agnieszka played really great but now we have to put our feet on the ground, very firmly, because things don’t come easy now. But nobody is giving up. Nevertheless, I’m tired of questions posed in such a way, of having to analyze each match in isolation, each and every week. If you disregard the first couple of games in the first set, the match against Giorgi was definitely not good. The fact that the Italian lost the final proves that she was beatable. She played under greater pressure in the final because she was the favourite, but for us it’s not an excuse. Nothing fundamental has changed for Agnieszka this week so I don’t even pick up the phone because I have nothing new to say. We are working on improvements but we need time, patience, solidity and support.
This is the weakest start of the season in Agnieszka’s career. She lost a similar match against Heather Watson in Indian Wells. She was able to deal with aggressive opponents like Watson and Giorgi in the past, it’s Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova that were problematic.
But times have changed. We can’t analyze Agnieszka’s tennis in isolation from what’s happening. Today, there are several players that play like Williams or Sharapova and tens of those who are a bit weaker. The level is higher, we have young guns like Garbine Muguruza, Madison Keys, Pliskova or Elina Svitolina, players like Simona Halep, Lucie Safarova, Ekaterina Makarova or Carla Suarez Navarro have been playing better. Malcontents will always complain that the level of women’s tennis is low but if they stop pointlessly comparing it to the men’s tennis, they will see something else. We notice changes and we have to adapt.
So we have to accept that Agnieszka’s level will inevitably decline?
A change of guard will happen, slowly. Agnieszka is not one of the youngest players at the top. In 2007 a teen Agnieszka beat Martina Hingis. Did the Swiss despair after the match? Did she retire? No, she continued to play and tried to change something. Agnieszka has to adapt too because she will not have a chance to win with newcomers by playing her old, defensive tennis.
If Agnieszka doesn’t modify her style a bit, it will be harder and harder, with time, because physically she works 30-40% more than her opponents during matches, she runs 1-2 km more. Tennis based on running will have to be limited as years pass. That’s why conditioning is so important, Agnieszka pays a lot of attention to it, but at some point she won’t be able to cheat time.
That’s why you talked about a necessary revolution in Agnieszka’s game – moving forward, better serve, return, taking the initiative. Sometimes we can see the effects, but not in matches against Watson or Giorgi.
I watch Agnieszka, I can see that she’s torn between continuing what she’s been doing for 20 years and trying a more aggressive tennis. When she employs new elements, plays aggressively, closer to the lines, takes risk with the return, I can see that she can do it, very effectively. But moments like these are still too scarce. In difficult moments she moves back. We have been working on these things for three, four months though, it’s not enough. You have to regenerate during a tournament, travel in-between, rest, there wasn’t much work on a court. But don’t ask me how much time we need, I don’t know that myself.
Nobody speaks much about Agnieszka’s technique which also forms a kind of a barrier?
It’s much more difficult for Agnieszka to play offensive tennis because she can’t generate lots of power in her shots. She doesn’t use the twist of the shoulder girdle and leg well enough. She learnt to play on super-fast surfaces where the ball accelerated very quickly and it was sufficient just to put the racket on the ball. This sequence of movements is encoded now and very difficult to modify. It’s not helpful against aggressive opponents on slower courts. In the last five years all surfaces have slowed down, even the grass at Wimbledon, which is hard to believe. The British use a different mix now which slows the ball after the bounce, on purpose.
Agnieszka can’t grow any taller but she can develop stronger muscles, and recently she’s lost some weight, too much even.
It is a problem… We talk with Agnieszka about it all the time. That’s all I can say.
Every tennis player goes through a crisis. Woźniacka, Azarenka, Kerber, even Sharapova, they dropped out of the top ten, then came back. Will Agnieszka manage as well?
We can’t judge her whole though that Wimbledon final. There are better and worse moments in everybody’s life, Agnieszka is going through a worse phase now but it’s normal in tennis. I can name 20 players whose careers were rocked by bigger shocks. If we analyze it closely, it’ll turn out that compared to them Agnieszka is dealing with it really well. The worst thing to do is to sit and cry. Agnieszka is not doing that, she’s focused on the future.
Martina Navratilova also believes that this revolution will be successful?
We all believe that.
Are you still working with Martina?
She will be with us at Roland Garros, maybe also before Madrid. We will work together until Wimbledon, then we’ll see, what’s next.
Translation by @jesna3