Bank of West 2013: Radwanska Moving Past Wimbledon Angst, ESPN Body Issue Uproar

Lindsay Gibbs@linzsports Featured ColumnistJuly 29, 2013

STANFORD, CA - JULY 22:  Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland speaks at a press conference during Day 1 of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford University Taube Family Tennis Stadium on July 22, 2013 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As Agnieszka Radwanska hopes to prove this summer, winning is the best revenge.

Though she lost in a hard-fought final to Dominika Cibulkova at the Bank of the West Classic on Sunday, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, Radwanska did something very important this week in Stanford, Calif.: She put the focus back on her tennis.

With grit, guile and a few of her famous flicks of the wrist, the Pole proved that she's not going to be overshadowed by a little controversy.

All things considered, it has been a rough month for the current world No. 4 .

On July 4, she lost in heartbreaking fashion to Sabine Lisicki in the semifinals of Wimbledon, 6-4, 2-6, 9-7. Up a break in the third set, Radwanska missed a golden opportunity to play Marion Bartoli in the Wimbledon final and, potentially, win the first Grand Slam of her career. 

After the riveting match, the Internet was abuzz for all of the wrong reasons, widely criticizing her for her curt post-match handshake with Lisicki. 

Only a few days later, Radwanska found herself the center of negative attention again, this time for her off-court exploits. As many athletes have done before her, she posed nude as part of the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue.  

Though the magazine issue is widely considered to be a tasteful showcase of athletic bodies, her ESPN Body Issue photos caused a firestorm of controversy in her native Poland. Things got so bad that she was dropped from a Catholic youth group that she had worked with in the past, due to what they considered "immoral behavior." 

But Radwanska was not going to be ashamed about her post-Wimbledon disappointment or her participation in the ESPN Body Issue. 

To respond to critics, Radwanska released a thoughtful statement on her Facebook page, where she was respectful but completely unapologetic:

The pictures are certainly not meant to cause offense and to brand them as immoral clearly does not take into account the context of the magazine. Moreover, they do not contain any explicit imagery whatsoever.

I train extremely hard to keep my body in shape and that's what the article and the magazine is all about. If you read the interview, it only discusses my job as an athlete and what I have to do physically to be able to participate at the highest level of sport. 

Then, expertly, Radwanska brought the attention fully back to her on-court talents at the Bank of the West Classic. She was the top seed, and though the spotlight was fully on her, she refused to succumb to the scrutiny that comes with conflict.

Instead, she fought her way through the draw round-by-round, even when she wasn't playing her best tennis.

Her draw was not a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination. In her second-round match, after a bye, she took out 2010 French Open Champion Francesca Schiavone. Then, in the quarterfinals and semifinals, she took out dangerous Americans Varvara Lepchenko and Jamie Hampton, respectively.

Dominika Cibulkova stopped her before she could win her 13th career title, but this week affirms one thing: Radwanska is moving in the right direction, and she's doing it rapidly.

Sure, Stanford is not Wimbledon, but it was a crucial step toward quieting the controversy and the doubts and proving that she has what it takes to push forward. Many players slink away after tough times. They mope. They hide. They cower.

Not Radwanska. In fact, she's still confident enough to use her past successes as proof that she can finally get that elusive Grand Slam:

Every player hits rough patches and becomes a talking point or a lightning rod for controversy at some point in their career. For Radwanska, those situations have all been condensed into the last month. 

But by turning right back to tennis, and getting (mostly) back to her winning ways, Radwanska is proving that she is ready to take her story back into her own wonderfully agile hands.