One word to sum up Radwanska's first half of the season? Lacklustre. Four words to sum it up? Lacklustre in the extreme. Starting out a top 10 player, Aga soon realised that her usual tricks were getting sussed out, as players of all rank and calibre began taking her down at many different stages. An Australian Open fourth round appearance would be her best showing for a good few months, as she persisted in sticking to her ways, and thus suffered a first round French Open loss to Annika Beck amongst other painful blows.
Yet things improved ever so slightly over the grass-court season, crumbling draws and her general comfort on the surface seeing Radwanska make the Eastbourne final and the Wimbledon semis. These impromtu runs certainly suggested that the Pole was on the way back, but Aga did fall in both cases to opponents she was expected to beat – namely teenage Belinda Bencic and 21-year-old Garbine Muguruza. And the former result was enough to reduce her to tears.
Still, the Pole is certainly playing with more confidence and better form than she did for the earlier part of the year, and she will need to do so again, as a 6-3 6-3 defeat of Coco Vandeweghe leaves her with an even trickier opponent up next.
World no. 16 Elina Svitolina barely missed out on a seeding here, and has slowly but surely been on the rise over the past few years. The Ukranian actually won WTA titles long before her more well-known contemporaries picked up even one, and gradually built up a game that had her consistently beating the lower ranked opposition, before moving on to knocking off top players. Her steadiness is now paying off.
Agnieszka has won the pair's only previous meeting, which wasn't too long ago. Her 7-6(5) 5-7 6-2 Miami triumph in 2014 was a battling affair - and took place before Svitolina's rankings rise, and her own dip in form. It all adds up to a promising clash in Tokyo.
No. 7 seed Radwanska has a rich history at this event, winning it back in 2011, and never falling before the quarter-final stage since she debuted in 2008. Svitolina, meanwhile, has played two years of the event and made the second round in each, falling to well-known opposition in Angelique Kerber and Ana Ivanovic, respectively.
Both women arrive here off a third round US Open showing.
Agnieszka Radwanska vs Elina Svitolina is live from Japan on Thursday at approximately 9.30 am BST.
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