Getting to know... Ula Radwanska

July 20, 2012 09:52 AM
Urszula Radwanska in action against Melanie Oudin at the Mercury Insurance Open.
By Matt Cronin, special to
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- While she doesn't quite have the resume of tennis' most famous younger sister Serena Williams, Poland’s Urszula "Ula" Radwanska has been rising quickly during the past two months and soon may no longer just be known as world No. 2-ranked Agnieska’s sibling. The 21-year-old plays a more aggressive style of ball than her creative older sister does, is more temperamental and is a bit more outgoing.
In the past two months, she’s reached the quarterfinals of Brussels, she was the runner-up at 's-Hertogenbosch, and she reached the quarterfinals of Emirates Airline US Open Series tournaments at Stanford and this week at the Mercury Insurance Open in Carlsbad, Calif. On Thursday, she raced past Melanie Oudin 6-2, 6-1 and will face second seed Dominika Cibulkova in the quarterfinals.
Q: You have been on a roll the past two weeks. Confidence-wise, this has to be the highest point of your career.
I think so. Now I’m a top-50 player, and that means a lot to me. Sometimes when I’m not confident, I have a thousand thoughts, and it’s hard to pick the right one. But now I’m playing automatically and going for my shots, and everything is going well. It’s better to play automatically. You just have to feel the instinct.
Q: Growing up in Poland, at what point did you know you could really be a touring pro?
Radwanska: My sister and I were always the best in Poland and playing against each other. When my sister won [2005] junior Wimbledon, then I knew it was going a good way and I could do it, as well, and I won it, as well [in 2007], and I knew we could be good players. I thought I’m not going to do anything else and that tennis was going to be my life.
Q: When your father first started teaching you to play, did you really enjoy it, or were you just forced to play?
Radwanska: I don't really remember because I was four or five, but when we first started playing, we played with a balloon. My father did a great job because he didn't push us to play. It was fun for us, playing games with us, not just going on court and hitting shots. My father was a tennis coach, so even when he was coaching, someone else was always on the court running around and having fun.
Q: Which players did you look up to in Poland? When you were young, only Magdalena Grzybowska was a good tour player, and she didn't get past the top 30 in the rankings, so did you look up to other players?
Radwanska: Yes, I was supporting Steffi Graf. Grzybowska was a good player, but not at the top level.
Q: So after you and Aga won junior Wimbledon, did you think you were going to be Poland’s version of the Williams sisters?
Radwanska: That would be amazing. A lot of people asked us about it, and it would be awesome to play in the final of Grand Slam against each other or being No. 1 or 2, like they did. They are amazing players and have done great stuff for women’s tennis. Maybe we are going to be close to them.
Q: The last time that you and Aga played each other, she said she hated it and that the next time she saw your name in the draw across from hers, she’s going to leave the tournament.
Radwanska: It’s really tough because when I’m going on the court I want to win the match, but when I see my sister on the other side of the net, I want her to win, as well. I hope I’m not going to play Aga again.
Q: Not all sisters socialize together, but you two seem very close.
Radwanska: We are best friends, and I really like playing tournaments with Aga because we always share a room, have fun, we can go shopping or the movies together. But here I’m just with my coach.
Q: Maybe it’s better for you tennis-wise that she’s not here because the last two weeks you have been playing better without her around.
Radwanska: True, but it doesn't have anything to do with her not being here. I prefer her to be here.
Q: I hear that when you, Aga and Caroline Wozniacki go out it can get pretty wild.
Radwanska: Yes, they call us "Triple Trouble." We have fun and do crazy things and forget about tennis.
Q: Do people recognize you when you go out in Poland?
Radwanska: Yes. People ask for autographs and photos, and that’s quite nice, but sometimes when people want to be friends with us, it’s too much.
Q: I noticed that after Aga won Miami and went home, the media at the airport swarmed her.
Radwanska: That’s part of our life, and we know that if we play well, there will be people around us.
Q: So you understand that being successful tennis players also means you become somewhat of a celebrity.
Radwanska: Yes, but we try not to be like celebrities. We get asked in to show up to parties for singers and be celebrities, but we don't want to do that. We say, ‘No, no, we are just tennis players,' and want to stay out of the celebrity life.
Q: So you don't want to sing on Eurovision or perform on "Dancing with the Stars?"
Radwanska: Singing, no, but dancing, maybe. I love to dance. But not right now while I’m still playing tennis.