How Agnieszka Radwanska handles the pressure to perform
As part of a series looking at the mind, body and soul of an athlete, ESPN's Prim Siripipat will speak to various tennis players throughout Wimbledon.
LONDON -- It took only 63 minutes for No. 3 seed and former Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska to outduel her first-round opponent, Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova, 6-2, 6-1 on Wednesday. Although rain caused more than a dozen women's matches to be suspended on the outer courts, play on Wimbledon's biggest stage continued thanks to a retractable roof that was installed in 2009.
In front of 15,000 fans in a packed Centre Court, Kozlova looked tense in her Wimbledon debut. Radwanska, on the other hand, remained calm and focused as she moved Kozlova to all corners of the court with her usual variety of shots. The 27-year-old Polish star was prepared, despite the rain that pushed their match back a day.
"You know, I was mentally ready to go," Radwanska said after the match. "Then, you know, rain. So it's always tough, but it's the same for both of us."
However, when it comes to the later rounds of a Grand Slam, Radwanska's mental game is still questionable -- or, at least a work in progress. In 2012, she reached her first career Grand Slam finals but failed to walk away with her first Wimbledon title, losing to Serena Williams in three sets. Her success that year propelled her to No. 2 in the world, but since then, she has yet to win a major or reach another major final.
Radwanska spoke with espnW.com about her approach to her mental game and how she handles the unrelenting pressure that comes with being a top star.
espnW: Aga, this is your 11th Wimbledon appearance. You've reached the finals here before. Do you get nervous at all for your first-round matches?
Radwanska: First match is always tricky, but as you say, it's so many years here so I'm not really that nervous. I think when you play tournaments, it's more emotion and adrenaline, so now I'm pretty calm.
espnW: You've been on the tour for 10-plus years now. Is there a moment where you ever get nervous?
Radwanska: Well, I remember those matches in the beginning that I was really, really nervous. I just couldn't even eat, because I was that nervous. I think experience makes a huge difference so now, it's just a usual day and you just go on the court and play.
espnW: Experience definitely helps. It also provides that confidence and belief in yourself, but do you have any regimen such as visualization or meditation to help keep you calm?
Radwanska: Not really. I'm not really that kind of person to meditate. For me, it's just really good to have a good warm-up and just go on court and figure out after a few games what you have to do to win matches. Trying to really stay calm and not really think about what I did wrong. [I just] think, "next point."
espnW: You've reached the finals here at Wimbledon, but you have yet to win a major. Do you believe in yourself that you can walk away with a Grand Slam sometime soon?
Radwanska: Well, I was close a couple times and even a couple times here [at Wimbledon]. I hope so. Of course, I believe that. I was there and I was playing the last match of the Grand Slam, so why not? I still have a couple more years to try and hopefully it will happen one day.
espnW: From a mental perspective, what do you think that next step is in terms of giving you that little push to clinch that major?
Radwanska: I think a couple things need to click to win a Grand Slam, to win those seven matches in a row. While every major is different, and every draw is different, you can't really compare one to another. I just focus on this one and we'll see.
espnW: If you had some advice for young athletes out there, what would that be?
Radwanska: I get that question so many times. It's never easy to explain what you have to do. ... It's trying to play the same tennis in the tiebreaker as you would in the first game. I think gaining experience and playing a lot of matches [is good] and experiencing a lot of losses. That's always a good lesson. Even when you don't win the match, it's still a good lesson for you so you can figure out what to do next time to win the match. I don't think there's any one tip because it's really hard.
Prim Siripipat joined ESPN as an anchor in 2011 after spending three years in Miami covering the Dolphins, Heat and Marlins. She has appeared on SportsCenter, First Take, NBA Tonight, as well as ESPN Radio. She played tennis at Duke University and, shortly after, began a career in broadcasting in Raleigh, North Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @ESPNPrim.