Agnieszka Radwanska plays subtle tennis filled with little touches that go unappreciated unless her game is watched closely.
It is as if she is wearing an intricate dress and if you are able to sit at her table, you notice the beading, embroidery, a splash of color, a touch of lace.
With Radwanska and her tennis racket, there is the ability to play a dainty drop shot, or change an opponent’s pace into a softly angled cross-court winner. There is the ability to think about where the ball will land five points later if she hits a spinning serve into the corner, a cross-court forehand, a sneaky volley, a lob that glistens in the sun.
Radwanska, a 22-year-old from Poland, who wondered whether she’d make it through the week because her right shoulder ached, discovered 100-mph starter strokes aren’t always necessary as she beat the top-seeded and world’s third-ranked player, Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 6-4, Sunday to win the Mercury Insurance Open in Carlsbad.
It was the third-seeded Radwanska’s 13th career title and it earned her a winner’s check of $111,000. She had played in the final here a year ago as well and lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova.
“Playing against the Russians isn’t easy,” Radwanska said, but it seemed that way Sunday.
Even though her serving shoulder was heavily taped and her first serves often measured below 90 mph, Radwanska faced only two break points and never lost her serve.
“I was very surprised about that,” Radwanska said. “I was really pleased with my serve today so that was pretty impressive. It was a very good match. Everything was working.”
She forged an early lead by gaining a service break in the fourth game and in winning it to go ahead, 3-1, Radwanska moved easily around the court as if she had a special power in knowing where Zvonareva’s powerful ground strokes would land.
And Radwanska didn’t waver for the rest of that first set, hitting a 94-mph ace that seemed to surprise Zvonareva in the final game of the set and cracking a backhand winner up the line on her first set point.
Radwanska broke early in the second set too, in the third game when Zvonareva, seemingly getting frustrated by Radwanska’s gentle touch, began hitting her forehand hard and long.
“She played a good, clean match,” Zvonareva said. “She played the way she usually plays; she just didn’t make many unforced errors.”
Zvonareva, 26, who got herself tangled up chasing down one Radwanska well-placed forehand and took a hard fall in the third set, had more clean winners than Radwanska — 25-17 — but also had 28 unforced errors to only 15 by Radwanska.
Radwanska, despite her aching shoulder, was in a happy mood all week. She gave credit to a new discovery — iced mocha — for her ability to ignore the shoulder and keep playing with energy.
Zvonareva might have needed an extra shot of caffeine. She seemed slow to reach some balls and said she was a bit tired after playing a long three-set match against Ana Ivanovic on Saturday night.
“Because I was a little bit tired,” Zvonareva said, “maybe I wasn’t doing something right. Every time I tried to stay aggressive, I made a mistake and I over hit.”
This was the first time Radwanska had beaten Zvonareva. In two previous matches, Radwanska hadn’t even won a set.
“I really wanted to win this tournament,” Radwanska said. “So I was focused from the beginning.”