Is Maria Sharapova the next Anna Kournikova

"Eastern Invasion": The Heiresses of Anna Kournikova

Poland's Agnieszka Radwańska is fighting for her first major title and number one. Radwańska has rarely appeared at major tournaments.

London. “I'm really excited to see how it will turn out,” said Agnieszka Radwańska, somewhat embarrassed after her semi-final success. On Saturday, the Pole will be in the first Grand Slam final of her career. In the event of a victory, she will take over the top of the world ranking from Maria Sharapova. Radwańska has rarely appeared in major tournaments, her greatest strength is her consistency. In eight of 14 tournaments in 2012 she reached at least the semifinals.

On the other hand, Radwańska's current opponent, Serena Williams, has a much more impressive record at first glance. The American has won a total of 13 Grand Slam victories so far. On the way to the Wimbledon final, she beat 85 aces in six games, almost twice as many as the three other semi-finalists combined. Williams has played twice against Radwańska and never lost a set.


The great power from the east

Should Williams live up to her role as a favorite, a Belarusian will also be happy with the American. Instead of Radwańska, semi-finalist Wiktoria Asarenka would take the number one position. The world rankings will definitely change for the ninth time in the last three years after Wimbledon. While the power density is high at the top, the geographic distribution of the world's best is concentrated. Petra Kvitová, the current number four, comes from the Czech Republic. There are currently ten players of Eastern European nationality in the top 20. Newspapers like "The Economist" and the "Wall Street Journal" already report of an "Eastern invasion".

In the former Soviet Union, a major reason for tennis ascent is often seen in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Tennis became Olympic again after 60 years, and the sport received strong sponsorships. In women's tennis, players like Natallja Swerawa followed, and Anna Kournikova made headlines in the 1990s.

The most successful generation to date, born around the time the Soviet Union collapsed, is now in its prime. Radwańska, Asarenka, Sharapowa and Kvitová are among the top favorites at every tournament. And will continue to do so for the next few years. The popularity of tennis at home is unbroken, in Poland Radwańska could become a national heroine. She is only the second Polish Grand Slam finalist after Jadwiga Jędrzejowska, who lost three finals in the 1930s.

("Die Presse", print edition, 07/07/2012)