Wiktorowski talks Radwanska, technique, and surface slow-downs

Original source: http://www.sport.pl/tenis/1,64987,17755508,Trener_Radwanskiej__Najgorsze__co_mozna_zrobic__to.html

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

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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.

~

Translated by Joanna.   Feedback and criticism are welcome; please let us know what you think in the comments.

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