SYDNEY (Reuters) - Power is not one of the things used to describe Agniezska Radwanska’s tennis game.
Touch, guile and tenacity would be more appropriate for the world number five, who begins the defense of her Sydney International title in the second round against American qualifier Bethany Mattek-Sands.
Radwanska, who combines her off-season with university studies, has realized she will probably never blast the likes of world number one Serena Williams or powerful Russian Maria Sharapova off court.
So, like other top women players on the circuit, she gets used to combating what is blasted back across at her with two male hitting partners.
“I have couple of hitting partners, they’re guys, so of course they’re playing stronger than the girls,” Radwanska told reporters in Sydney when asked what she did to try to compete with the taller, more powerful women on tour.
“So of course the practice (is) always a little bit harder and you do much more in practice to be prepared ... for the match.”
Radwanska is the only player in the women’s top five who is playing this week to fine tune her preparations for the season opening grand slam in Melbourne that starts on January 13.
Williams, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and Sharapova all played in Brisbane, while China’s Li Na won the Shenzhen tournament in her homeland.
Radwanska skipped her title defense in Auckland to play the Hopman Cup this year after she spent more than two months away from competitive tennis following a grueling Asian swing at the end of 2013.
The three weeks in Asia had cost her at the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul, where she lost all three of her round robin matches, she said.
“I think I really had a lot of matches in Asia. I played 13 matches in 18 days, which was a lot.
“I think a little bit too much.
“I thought I would be ready, and I just remember I had just two days off and I said ‘I’m going to practice and go back on court and be ready for the Championships’.
“I think it was not enough rest between.”
Eager to rest, but also to try to ensure she started 2014 in the same way she had in 2013, when she won 13 successive matches and claimed two titles before she lost to Li in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park, she only took two weeks off after Istanbul.
“I had vacation right after Istanbul. So two weeks after, and then of course back on court and hard work from the beginning. So I really practiced a lot the last few weeks,” she said.
“I really did a lot of fitness, you know, to be healthy and strong for the whole year.
“Hopefully I can have the same good start of the season like last year. We’ll see.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly