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Holding Court

Olympic Games a chance to get out of tennis bubble

I'm incredibly honoured and proud to have the opportunity to represent Poland at the Olympics in Rio. This will be my third Summer Games and I'm looking forward to an exciting two weeks and a chance to win a medal for my country.

Tennis players are used to playing in big events and the pressure that comes with representing our countries. The media think it's different at the Olympics. They say, "You're playing for your country now".

But I represent Poland every week when I take the court for a tennis match. When I walk on court, the Polish flag is next to my name. In the crowd, the fans are holding the flags of the players they support. If someone knows me, they know I am from Poland. So for me, the pressure of playing at the Olympics is not that different.

What makes Olympic tennis different from any other week for us is the opportunity to be around other elite athletes. My first Olympics was in Beijing 2008 and I remember being in awe as I watched other athletes from different sports train. In Beijing, there was a huge gym in the middle of the Olympic Village and I could see different guys working out.

You can see all the different athletes and how they work out in the gym and how they look like in the real world. That's something that you have only at the Olympics. That was so impressive, to see all of them in one place. It's always good to see them cheering for you and being in the same building and having dinner at the same table.

One memory that stands out was watching the boxers trying to lose weight on the treadmills. They wore so many layers and jackets to sweat and I really didn't expect it to look like that! It was amazing how they could do that and not be dehydrated. It was so hot and humid and they had two jumpers and they were sprinting at full speed! I was looking at them and I couldn't believe it. It was so interesting to see that because we live in our little tennis bubble.

  • In the lead-up to the Oct 21-30 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, reigning champion Agnieszka Radwanska will pen columns exclusively for The Straits Times. This is the third contribution in the monthly series.

I could really see that in London in 2012. We played the Olympics at the All England Club, where just a few weeks earlier we had played Wimbledon. It was the same facility, same faces, same tournament but with a smaller draw, and the energy was so different.

I could easily walk around the site to go to Aorangi Park to practise and there were no people, no thing around. It was like Middle Sunday every day! It felt very different from how it usually is at our biggest events. When you go on court, there's still the crowd and you still play the same tennis against the same opponents. But it is different. From that perspective, you can really see that tennis is not the biggest sport at the Olympics.

What makes Olympic tennis different from any other week for us is the opportunity to be around other elite athletes... You can see all the different athletes and how they work out in the gym and how they look like in the real world.

This year, we do not get ranking points at the Olympics, which is different from previous years. Maybe that's why some players think it's not worth it. There are only three medals and when you have Serena Williams or Novak Djokovic in the draw, maybe you don't think you can get one. But for me, it would be great to have that medal and I'll try everything I can to achieve that.

Of course the Olympics are very big in Poland. I know that I am one of the athletes that can do something at the Olympics but we have a lot of athletes who I think will win a gold medal for sure, like in shot put and discus.

The biggest impact of the Olympics is on our schedules. This year was tricky because there is not much time between Wimbledon and the US Open. I had a few days off but obviously not as much as every year because inserting the Olympics into our schedule meant the summer hard-court series started earlier. It's a tight schedule, but I knew it was going to be more training than resting this year. That's why I tried to take more time off in the first half of the season.

This week, I am in Montreal for the Rogers Cup, and even though I can use it as Olympic preparation, at the same time it's a big event and you want to do well, especially because I have a chance at the No. 1 ranking this summer. The same in Cincinnati. That's why you see some withdrawals as well, because there are a lot of big tournaments in a row.

For me, I know how important the next few months are and I'm excited to see what will happen next.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Olympic Games a chance to get out of tennis bubble'. Print Edition | Subscribe