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Jerzy Janowicz continues his run of firsts

A backhand return by Jerzy Janowicz.
by Matt Trollope
Friday 28 June 2013

Wimbledon 2013 has been characterised by a series of firsts. The first time ever that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, when playing in the same Grand Slam event, have both failed to reach the second week. The first time in more than 100 years that no American men have progressed to the third round at the All England Club.

That theme continued on Friday, when Polish No.24 seed Jerzy Janowicz reached the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.

And he did what Federer, Nadal and the American men could not – impose his game and his will on a talented opponent on the game’s biggest stage.

The setting was Centre Court, another first for Janowicz. And he utterly brutalised his opponent, pounding 59 winners past No.15 seed Nicolas Almagro – and committing just 15 errors – in recording a decisive 7-6(6) 6-3 6-4 victory. “Actually I know I should compare this Wimbledon to Paris [Masters] last year [where he reached the final],” he said.

“Right now I made my best result in a Grand Slam, first time ever in fourth round. First time ever on Centre Court, I’m so happy.”

Delayed for half an hour by some pesky showers, the clouds eventually lifted and it was Almagro who opened the match as brightly as the sky now above the court. He slammed three consecutive aces in holding for 1-0 and broke in the very next game as Janowicz mixed sizzling winners, wild errors and puzzling shot selection.

“Actually [the delay] affect me a little bit,” Janowicz reflected.

“I didn’t know if we going to play, whether they put on the roof. I was a little bit nervous but lucky I was able to come back.”

The 6ft 8in Pole finally settled, getting on the board for 3-1 thanks to some monstrous serving. Almagro held for 4-1, yet only after blowing a 40-0 lead and becoming mired in a battle at deuce after a slew of disastrous errors. Three games later, Janowicz had drawn level.

Almagro looked set to run away with the ensuing tie-break at 5-3, but Janowicz’s power proved invaluable – a pair of forcing forehands coupled with an ace sent him ahead 6-5. Two points later, Janowicz had another chance after rifling a volley winner past the Spaniard’s head. Centre Court was abuzz.

The No.24 seed powered a forehand winner to clinch the opening set.

The two men settled into a pattern of comfortable service holds, which continued into the eighth game of the second set when Almagro led 30-0. Yet two errors from the Spaniard and a Janowicz forehand return winner give the Pole break point, and when Almagro drove a forehand into the net off a simple putaway, Janowicz had broken for 5-3. The set was as good as over.

Janowicz made sure of it in the next game, and combined jaw-dropping power with nuanced touches around the net to keep his opponent off-balance in the third. He smacked an ace out wide to level at 3-3, his loud cry of “c’mon!” eliciting a lengthy, irritated stare from Almagro down the court.

The Pole was neither intimidated nor concerned, and when the Spaniard framed a forehand into the crowd in the ninth game, Janowicz had secured another vital break. He promptly served out the match in the very next game, accompanying his final ace out wide with a roar of delight and grateful acknowledgement of the appreciative Centre Court crowd.

Next up is a tricky yet winnable fourth round bout with 37th-ranked Jurgen Melzer.

“We’ll see how it’s gonna be. Jurgen is a great player, left-hander. I will have to get used to lefties,” Janowicz said.

“I’m playing great tennis, feeling confident and I hope I’m gonna win.”

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