Wednesday, October 12, 2016

It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that (Asian) swing

Tennis players have different "wake-up calls." For some, it's the beginning of the clay season, when they can play the slow game they enjoy, carefully constructing points and employing a lot of spin. For others, it's the grass season, when they can be very aggressive. For Aga Radwanska, the grass certainly calls loudly, but it's the Asian swing that really gets her going.

It was no surprise that Radwanska won last week's premier tournament in Beijing. Earlier in the season, she won the International event in Shenzhen. Last year, she won Tokyo and also the international event in Tianjin. In 2011, The Ninja won the Tokyo-Beijing premier double.

During this year's Asian swing (so far), Radwanska reached the semifinals at the premier Tokyo tournament, and the quarterfinals at the premier tournament in Wuhan. She is currently the defending champion and top seed in Tianjin. The 2nd seed, by the way, is Svetlana Kuznetsova, who defeated Radwanska in the quarterfinals in Wuhan.

Nine of the world number 3's career titles have been won in Asia. Her Asian groove is so solid, it has an almost tennis-mystical quality to it. Is it these particular hard courts? The light? The weather? The crowds? Of course, part of Radwanska's success, at this point, is due to her former success. Playing in Asia now brings an automatic boost of confidence to the world number 3. It's nice to see her continue her Asian swing tradition because it puts her in a good ranking place at the end of the season, and it also prepares her for the WTA Finals.

Radwanska is, in fact, the defending champion in Singapore.

The "big three" tournaments of the Asian swing, the premier events, were won this year by Radwanska, Wozniacki (Tokyo) and Kvitova (Wuhan). Wozniacki has inserted herself back into the top level conversation, if only for a while. Kvitova has only added to our confusion; just when we think she's out--she's in. And just when we think she's in again--she's out. This was Kvitova's second time to win in Wuhan; she also won the debut event in 2014. Her close friendship with Li Na appeared then--and now--to be part of her motivation to bring Scary Petra to the court.

In the meantime, the new pairing of Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova was successful in Tokyo, and the now red-hot team of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova won both Wuhan and the China Open.

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