MONTREAL — Tournament director Eugene Lapierre called Agnieszka Radwanska the “anti-star,” and he meant it in a good way.
The right-hander, who won the US$2.44 million women’s Rogers Cup with a too-easy 6-4, 6-2 victory over Venus Williams on Sunday, is not flashy on or off the court.
She is relentlessly efficient, a tireless returner of balls from the baseline, with subtle changes of speed and spin that wear down vulnerable opponents like Williams, who had worn her 34-year-old self out with a stirring, three-set win over her top-ranked sister Serena Williams in the semifinals.
The third-seeded Radwanska, the first Rogers Cup champion from Poland, picked up her first tournament win of the year at the hardcourt event and the $441,000 winner’s prize.
“She played great tennis the whole week, playing and beating a lot of good players on the way to the final,” Radwanska said of Williams, a seven-time grand slam champion in her glory years. “I think I am even more happy to beat Venus when she’s really on fire.”
Radwanska, ranked fifth in the world to Williams’ 26th, posted her first Rogers Cup win after twice reaching the semifinals. It was her first victory since 2013 at Seoul.
She was the best, most consistent player all week, mowing down Victoria Azarenka in two sets in the quarter-finals before beating a hot Ekaterina Makarova in two long sets in the semis.
“I think I was playing much better every match,” the 25-year-old Radwanska said. “I didn’t start that well from my first match, but every match was much better.
“That’s why I think I’m sitting right here now with you (reporters). I was feeling the balls much better.”
The Krakow, Poland native shot off to a 4-1 lead, but Williams answered with a break that had the centre court crowd on its feet as Radwanska hit a drop shot, Williams dropped back, Radwanska hit a lob and Williams got back in time to win the point with a cross-court slash.
Radwanska settled back in to finish the set and opened the second with a service break. After Williams broke to tie it at 2-2, she gave the break to Radwanska with a pair of double faults. Radwanska cruised the rest of the way, punctuating her victory with an ace on match point.
Williams had an excellent week that will put her back into the world top-20 starting Monday. Her six matches, four of them in three sets, included wins over sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber and 14th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro.
But beating Radwanska required more energy and patience than she had left for the final.
“Against her, you really have to be patient,” said Williams. “Today, I just didn’t have everything to be patient and really work the point.
“I wanted to give more, but I just didn’t have it. It felt great to play so well this week. I really would like to think under circumstances, where I could give everything I have, that the results could have been a little different.”
She fell short in her bid to become the event’s oldest champion after Martina Navratilova, who won 52 days before her 33rd birthday in 1989.
Still, Williams was upbeat about her game, which is on the rebound after a few years of injuries and a battle with the auto-immune disease Sjogren’s Syndrome.
The five-time Wimbledon champion could even be a factor at the U.S. Open that starts Aug. 25 in New York, where she won in 2000 and 2001.
“It’s starting to come,” she said. “Finding myself in all these different situations where you’re playing the world No. 1, you’re in the semifinals, you’re in a final, I’ve done it so many times, but I haven’t done it in a while.
“I’m so grateful just for everything. It’s a whole new way of looking at things now.”
That includes not being upset at losing in the final, which earned her $220,000.
“This week I was tired because I played so many matches,” she added. “That’s great for me.
“Instead of unreasonable fatigue that’s unconquerable, just the opposite really: a fatigue from too much success. That’s the positive. I ran out of energy because I was winning too many matches. I haven’t had that problem in a long time.”
Williams has played the Rogers Cup in alternate years when it is held in Toronto, but had never played it in Montreal. She became a fan favourite and said she fell in love with the tournament and the city, telling centre court fans she hopes to be back many more times.
She will be back in the region soon, as she plans to play the lower-level Coupe Banque Nationale Sept. 6-14 in Quebec City.
In the doubles final, the top-ranked Italian duo of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci defeated Cara Black and Sania Mirza 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Organizers announced the tournament drew 181,996 spectators, topping the previous high of 175,000.
Sales were boosted by the recent success of Eugenie Bouchard, but the Westmont, Que., native lost her first match on Tuesday to Shelby Rogers.