Success comes at a price for this Pole

Agnieszka Radwanska, in the women's singles final this year, knows the value of money having had to work very hard for it, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Agnieszka Radwanska, who faces Serena Williams in the final on Saturday, is on the cusp of a first major title and the top ranking. Toby Melville / AP Photo
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Earlier this week, Angelique Kerber was asked what she would do if she won the Wimbledon title. "I would jump off an airplane," she said, and she meant it.

The German and her coach have planned to go skydiving or paragliding if she wins a grand slam, but that adventure trip will have to wait till the US Open, at least.

The world No 8, who has seen a meteoric rise up the women's rankings since the US Open last year after starting the tournament as No 92, played the match of the championship in the last round, defeating Sabine Lisicki in three sets.

In the fourth round, Kerber had brought her idol Kim Clijster's Wimbledon farewell to an early end. But today, she failed to match the consistency or guile of Agnieszka Radwanska, the world No 3, and lost 6-3, 6-4 in just 70 minutes.

So, what will Radwanska do if she wins the title on Saturday? The Pole, voted as the fans' favourite singles player on the WTA Tour in 2011, will probably not do anything as extreme as Kerber for fear of injuring herself. She still enjoys a bit of rollerblading, but she has given up on skiing for that reason.

"For 10 years I have not been on the slopes," she said in an interview recently. "I'm careful; I take care of myself because I do not want some stupid accident to knock me out of tournaments."

Radwanska, 23, the Dubai champion, usually gifts herself a Louis Vuitton bag after winning a tournament, but if she wins the Wimbledon crown, she can indulge herself a bit more, probably adding a few more designer labels to her wardrobe. It will be her first major championship and she will leave London with the women's No 1 ranking, as well.

"I spend a lot on fads," she said. "I like shopping, and brand names. I take the labels, the quality, but also the price into consideration. My favourite stores: Armani Exchange, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein …

"I'm not extravagant. Yes, I have a few Louis Vuitton, but you will also find shoes worth €10 in my closet. I don't squander [money], I treat it with respect."

That respect probably comes from her youth. Her parents, both tennis coaches, made many sacrifices for Radwanska and her younger sister, Urszula, who is also a tennis pro. Her grandfather, Wladyslaw Radwanski, a hockey player, sold some of his personal belongings to help support her youth career.

"Tennis is an expensive sport - you have to hire courts, buy racquets, balls and strings," she said in an interview last year. "In the junior tournaments, there is no prize money at all, but you have to take part. Over the years, we slept in the cheapest hotels, dormitories."

Radwanska started playing the sport when she was just four years old. Her family was living in Germany, where her father was playing as a club professional. The routine got a bit more rigorous as the two sisters grew up and the family returned home to Krakow, in Poland.

"I began regular workouts with my dad - twice a day, before school and after school," she said. "Lunch, which was prepared by my mom, was usually eaten in the car, straight from the box. There was no time to go home. There was no time to meet friends and I have never been on a normal vacation. In the summers, we had to play in the tournaments. It was the same on weekends."

Radwanska, however, has no regrets and her sacrifices seem to have paid off. By the age of 15, she was competing in tournaments and winning "a few hundred dollars".

The breakthrough came in 2005 when she won the Wimbledon girls' title. In 2006, she clinched the junior's title at the French Open, played a WTA Tour event, the Warsaw Open, for the first time, reached the fourth round at Wimbledon before losing to Clijsters and beat Venus Williams at Luxembourg later in the year.

In August 2007, she won became the first Polish woman to win a WTA Tour singles title when she triumphed at the Nordic Open, and the trophies have kept growing since. "Together with my sister's, nearly 300 of them, plus medals, and diplomas," Radwanska said.

"They take up all the wall. They are beautiful! I arrange all of them, all 300. Our cleaning maid takes care of them.

"In the living room, we have a glass wall, back-lit by halogen bulbs. When you turn on the light, the cups look divine."

The wall is still missing a grand slam trophy, though, and tomorrow she has the opportunity to add the most cherished plate in women's tennis to that collection.

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