Published: June 20, 2009
LONDON — The primary languages of the women’s tennis tour have expanded in recent years, with English, Spanish and French being joined by Russian and Chinese.
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Agnieszka Radwanska is Poland’s biggest star since Wojtek Fibak.

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Sabine Lisicki of Germany is the daughter of an immigrant.

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Caroline Wozniacki’s father was a pro soccer player.

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Urszula Radwanska was born in Germany and raised in Poland.

But a new language is making inroads on the practice courts and in player restaurants, and even in the later rounds of important tournaments: Polish.
“It’s good to not all the time have to speak in English on the tour,” Agnieszka Radwanska said.
“It’s good to get the chance to speak your own language; it makes you more comfortable.”
The 11th-ranked Radwanska, Poland’s biggest tennis star since Wojtek Fibak, a top men’s player in the ’70s and ’80s, has plenty of opportunity these days. And not only because her younger sister Urszula, 18, who was also a Wimbledon junior champion, has been making steady progress and is 71st in the world.
An expanding group of players of Polish origin is also making a significant impact, led by Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada and Sabine Lisicki of Germany.
“We all hang out,” Wozniak said. “It’s a good connection.”
All three are the Polish-speaking daughters of first-generation Polish immigrants and all are in the top 50 in the world, with the powerfully built 18-year-old Wozniacki leading the way at No. 9. Wozniak is at a career-high ranking of 23rd after her surprise run to the fourth round of the French Open.
No wonder fan sites tracking the Polish tennis diaspora have begun to emerge on the Web. Others have been worth tracking of late, including the Australian teenager Olivia Rogowska, who reached the second round in Paris after receiving a wild-card berth.
“I think the immigrant mentality is a powerful thing,” Wozniak said in a telephone interview last week from Eastbourne, England. “They are people who will do anything to achieve their dreams. They have this very strong desire to accomplish goals; they are perfectionist and work hard because of this mentality. I know, because I have it, and I know how much I never want to give up.”
Though she seemed overwhelmed by the occasion in Paris when she lost to Serena Williams on center court in the fourth round, Wozniak has quickly recovered her cool and rhythm. In Eastbourne, she upset the new French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in two lopsided sets but lost in the semifinals Friday to Wozniacki, who won the tournament Saturday with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 win against Virginie Razzano.
Wozniacki and Wozniak are the children of former Polish soccer players. Wozniacki’s father, Piotr, played professionally in Poland and Denmark, which explains how his daughter happened to become Denmark’s first truly world-class women’s tennis player. Her mother, Anna, played volleyball for the Polish national team.
Wozniak’s father, Antoni, also played soccer in Poland before immigrating to Montreal in 1983 with his wife, Jadwiga, and daughter Dorota. She became a top junior in Canada and later played tennis for San Diego State.
Aleksandra, 21, was born in Montreal but has made several visits to Poland, the most recent this year when she visited relatives in Rawa Mazowiecka, about 50 miles from Warsaw.
“We live in a different world,” she said. “I was born in Montreal, but definitely I was growing up Polish. So I feel pretty much I have a strong connection to my Polish heritage. But I feel Canadian and definitely am proud of being a Canadian and representing the country all over the world in a sport where there are not many Canadians anymore.”
Lisicki, a 19-year-old born in Germany, has followed a more established path to her No. 43 world ranking. For the past several years, she has trained regularly in Bradenton, Fla., with her father and coach, Richard Lisicki, at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy owned by International Management Group, which represents her, just as it has long represented many of the game’s stars and emerging stars.
Fibak, an entrepreneur and art collector, now does occasional tennis commentary for Polish television. For him, Agnieszka Radwanska is the new Martina Hingis, “a natural mover who understands the geometry of the court,” he said. Wozniacki is in the same vein as Maria Sharapova, not because of her recent shoulder problems but because “she’s hitting so hard off both wings,” Fibak said.
Lisicki, Fibak said, “moves and hits like Kim Clijsters,” the former world No. 1 who is planning a comeback this summer.
Lisicki, who possesses one of the biggest serves in the women’s game, commanded attention in April by winning her first tour title, in Charleston, S.C.
It came on clay, and she defeated Venus Williams of the United States, Marion Bartoli of France and Wozniacki (all top-20 players) on her way to the trophy. Her momentum has been stopped in recent weeks by a shoulder problem and appendicitis.
Poland has a history of supplying Germany with sports stars, including Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, Polish-born soccer players who played vital roles on the German national team at the 2006 World Cup.
The Radwanskas could have been part of the exodus too. Urszula was born in Germany, and Agnieszka began playing there at age 4 in the club in Gronau where her father, Robert, was a teaching professional.
“It was almost the same way for us as for the others,” Agnieszka said. “But when I was 6 or 7, my father decided that Urszula and I should go to Polish schools, so we went back to Poland. I think it was a good decision for the family.”
Poland has had a dearth of prominent players since Fibak, a man of limited power but abundant brainpower, was winning matches in bunches in singles and doubles in the 1970s and early 1980s. Fibak, once part of the top 10, also coached Ivan Lendl, helping him win his first major title at the 1984 French Open. No Polish man has emerged to evoke memories of Fibak, but the women are filling the void.
“It’s partly the product of Solidarity and the freedom that Poles had to move and explore outside opportunities,” Fibak said of the new wave of players with Polish roots .
Agnieszka Radwanska says training conditions are a reason Polish tennis families have stayed abroad.
“For sure, Fibak is right about Solidarity,” she said. “But I think also in Poland, it’s not really good to practice. For example, in Krakow, where I live, there are no hardcourts, only indoor clay and indoor carpet. I can understand that other people prefer to practice in a tennis academy in the U.S.A. or Spain or wherever. But I just feel good at home, even if it means I have to practice on the carpet.”