© Ella Ling


Introducing the woman who could become number one


The Tennis Space briefing: five things you need to know about Agnieszka Radwanska, a Pole who needs “a psychiatrist or a psychologist” (according to her father), who has kept a couple of rats called Flippy and Floppy, and who could leave Melbourne Park as the world number one.

Other tennis players have small dogs that fit into their handbags, Radwanska has had rats, called Flippy and Floppy. “Rats are normal animals like kittens,” said Radwanska, a 22-year-old from Krakow, and one of six women who could leave Melbourne Park with the world number one ranking (she would have to win the title to have a chance of doing so). “Rats are not dirty or horrible or anything.” There have been suggestions, however, that she spends too much time away from home to properly look after Flippy and Floppy and so gave them up for adoption. 
Radwanska has never been higher than eighth in the world, her current ranking, and has never gone beyond the quarter-finals at a grand slam. On four occasions, Radwanska has reached the last eight at a major – twice at the Australian Open and twice at Wimbledon – but every time she has progressed no further. Hence the  casual tennis fan may not know their Flippy from their Floppy. 
There have been tense moments with her father Robert (also her coach). At last year’s French Open, Robert was so annoyed with his daughter for losing to Maria Sharapova in the fourth round that he said she needed “a psychiatrist, a psychologist, something like that”. Doubtless he would not have been too happy on Monday that Agnieszka dropped the first set of her opening match at Melbourne Park against Bethanie Mattek-Sands, of the United States – yet she went on to win in three. Father and daughter continue to work together. 
The Radwanskas are probably the closest that Poland will ever get to the Williams sisters. Her younger sister Urszula, a former junior Wimbledon champion, is ranked 99 in the world. At last week’s tournament in Sydney, Agnieszka beat Urszula in straight sets. Just like Serena and Venus, Agnieszka and Urszula don’t much like playing against a member of their family. “It’s just the worst feeling playing against you sister, especially because we’ve been very close and have been practising together for 17 years and travelling together,” Agnieszka said. “We said the next time I think we’re just going to pack and go home because this is ridiculous.”  
She is another of the locker-room students. Radwanska is studying tourism at the University of Krakow.