A Grand Slam tournament is more a marathon than a sprint and the 'slow-and-steady approach' to the challenges ahead tends to win the day.
Many a young gun has shown flashes of brilliance and chutzpah to cause a bit of an upset in an early round only to crash and burn in the very next match. That has never been Agnieszka Radwanska’s way.
Poland’s favourite daughter picked her way carefully through the wreckage of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s game on Saturday and emerged triumphant on the other side to take her place in the fourth round 5-7 6-2 6-2.
It was not easy, it was anything but straightforward, but slowly, carefully, and with the minimum of fuss, Radwanska moved on.
It is hard to work out exactly what it is that Radwanska does that makes her so successful (13 career titles won, a Wimbledon final reached and a place in the world’s top five secured) and it is best to focus on what she doesn’t do: she doesn’t make mistakes. She is not particularly powerful, she is not startlingly quick but she reads the game like a book, anticipates well and hits every shot with precision and placement. In short, she is the direct opposite to Pavlyuchenkova.
The Russian has made the headlines in the past, knocking down top names at big events and setting herself up as the next big thing to hit women’s tennis. And then she slides into another trough, changes her coach (at the moment she is working with her dad and her brother but that may change in the future) and disappears from view for a while.
Saturday looked like it was going to be a day for headlines as she edged out the first set but it was not to be. The only headlines Pavlyuchenkova was going to make was for suffering a fit of the vapours (she had the doctor on to check her blood pressure in the second set and went off for a break before the start of the third) – and it was not even hot out there.
Then again, she had cause to feel a bit faint. She had been happily clattering winners and unsettling the Polish metronome with a combination of thunderbolts and walloping misses, a tactic that had given her a lead of a set and a break. And then Radwanska slowly and quietly came back in that understated way of hers.
The world No.5 could not compete with her rival on the winners front, but she did not have to. For all that Pavlyuchenkova racked up (39 belters), she also amassed 49 unforced errors and that is never a good combo. On the other side of the net, Radwanska was doing nothing flashy (only 25 winners spread over a two hour and 15 minute match) but there were only 19 fluffs. And only three in the third set. There was nothing Pavlyuchenkova could do to match that.
“The first set was very tight,” Radwanska said. “I had a lot of chances but I couldn’t win it. I’m so pleased I played better in the second set. Now I’m in the fourth round, everybody will be playing good tennis. Unfortunately.”
But it never really matters what everyone else is doing – Radwanska just keeps chipping away, slowly and steadily. Her Australian Open marathon has barely got started yet.