Tuesday May 8th, 2012

Agnieszka Radwanska The steadily improving Agnieszka Radwanska has cracked the top three in the rankings for the first time in her career. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Hold up. Agnieszka Radwanska is now the No. 3 player in the world? How did that happen?

The short answer is that because of scheduling changes this year, the points that Petra Kvitova earned from her 2011 Madrid title fell off on Monday, dropping her behind Radwanska, who is in the top three for the first time in her career. The long answer is that this has been in the works for quite some time now.

Other than a surprising second-round loss to Angelique Kerber at the U.S. Open last year -- a defeat that doesn't look so bad now that Kerber is on the verge of cracking the top 10 -- Radwanska has had an incredible last 10 months highlighted by Premier-level titles in Carlsbad, Tokyo, Beijing, Dubai and Miami. Her strong finish to 2011 teed up her exemplary 2012, when she's advanced to the quarterfinals in every tournament she's entered (eight total), a feat matched only by the two women ranked ahead of her, No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and No. 2 Maria Sharapova.

Speaking of Azarenka, Radwanska's year could be even better if she hadn't been in Vika's half of the draw constantly. They've been placed in the same half in every tournament they've played together this year and, much to Aga's chagrin, Azarenka has won all five meetings.

The good news for Radwanska is that she's one one spot away from avoiding Azarenka's half of the draw. And getting that No. 2 ranking isn't out of the question. Radwanska won only one match in Madrid and Rome combined last year, giving her a great opportunity to collect a load of points -- up to 1,800 -- over the next two weeks. Though she trails Sharapova by 1,510 points, Sharapova's Rome points (900 after winning the title last year) drop next Monday, whereas Radwanska is defending a single ranking point. Could Aga sneak into the French Open as the No. 2 seed? As she's shown since last August, anything is possible.

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