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INTERVIEW-Tennis-Fearless Radwanska at ease on the big stage
PATTAYA, Thailand |
PATTAYA, Thailand Feb 11 (Reuters) - Agnieszka Radwanska should relish her giant-killing status while it lasts -- on current form the Polish teenager will not be an underdog for much longer.
The feisty 18-year-old has earned a reputation for shocking the world's top players after dismissing Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova in her last two grand slams.
"I have nothing to lose, I just see another player in front of me," she told Reuters in an interview.
"I like to play top players. I'm never scared, I'm not nervous. I'm on centre court, someone famous is against me -- they have to win the match, not me."
Radwanska has produced her best tennis on the big stage, winning the junior Wimbledon title in 2005 during her first season on the WTA tour and winning the Stockholm Open last year.
However, it was her win over defending champion Sharapova at last year's U.S. Open that thrust her into the spotlight. Radwanska's shock defeat of number two seed Kuznetsova in Melbourne last month proved it was no fluke.
She conceded that the victories had raised expectations in Poland, which had embraced the sport thanks to her grand slam exploits.
"There's pressure because there are not so many Polish players," said Radwanska, who was the first player from her country to win a tour title, break into the top 30 and reach the last eight of a grand slam.
"I'm famous there. More people are playing, clubs are full, kids are interested. It's a big sport now for everyone and it has a lot to do with me, which is good."
With her father as coach, sister Urszula as playing partner and mother her biggest travelling fan, Radwanska does not get homesick and said life on the tour was not so bad.
"People think a life of hotels, restaurants, new countries is crazy," said Radwanska, who keeps two rats -- named Flippy and Floppy -- as household pets.
"For us this is all normal, it has to be. It's my job, it's how I make money. It used to be all fun and passion but it's work now."
Radwanska captured her second career title on Sunday in Pattaya after reaching the final with relative ease, defeating American Jill Craybas in a thrilling encounter.
Ranked 21st in the world, she hopes to maintain her rapid progress and earn a place in the top 20.
"In women's tennis, there's not much difference between the top five and the top 20," she said.
"I wouldn't have imagined this to happen. It was unexpected, it all happened so fast.
"Of course, I want to be a top 10 player, win a grand slam. I think about it and like all players, I want to be number one." (Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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