It was the quarter-final everyone had penciled in as R. Federer v R. Nadal, but as the big guns tumbled, two unlikely Poles, Jerzy Janowicz and Lukasz Kubot, stepped up and staked their claims to the vacancies created.
In the first clash between two players of the same nationality in a Wimbledon quarter-final since 2000, it was towering 24th-seed Janowicz who became the first Polish man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 victory on Wednesday.
It was Pete Sampras who beat Jan-Michael Gambill in that 2000 Wimbledon quarter-final. He went all the way to the title that year, a comforting omen for the inspired Janowicz.
The 22-year-old cracked 30 aces over three sets to his Davis Cup team-mate’s nine and upon sealing the result with a service winner, collapsed to the ground, crying on his back before standing to embrace Kubot, with the two swapping shirts.
“I think that was really, really cool. As I said, I know Lukasz pretty well. He's my Davis Cup mate, so we know [each other] really good. He's my good friend. So I think this was nice from both of us,” Janowicz said. “This is really big thing for me. This is what I was waiting for. This is what I was dreaming about. So as I can see, sometimes if you are dreaming about something really hard, it can actually happen.”
Serving to stay in the first set Janowicz saved a set point with a big forehand winner and backed it up with an ace before ripping a backhand pass up the line to level at 5-5. Two games later he had drawn first blood, taking the opening set 7-5.
When the majority-British crowd was cheering on Andy Murray’s Centre Court progress on court, a clearly frustrated Janowicz threw his arms up before umpire Carlos Ramos pleaded with them to refrain from interrupting play. “Ladies and gentlemen, as a courtesy to these players can we please get back to this match,” Ramos said.
It brought a smile from the usually steely Janowicz and he went on to close out the second set with a 136mph ace down the T for 6-4. At 4-4 in the third, Janowicz sent a clever slice backhand lob over the net-hugging Kubot, landing the break when his opponent’s scrambling backhand sailed wide. He racked up three match points with a 137mph ace down the T, but needed only the one.
“Right now I'm the most happy person in the world. I made semifinal of Grand Slam, my best result ever. Also I have in my mind last year Paris Bercy. I was there in the final,” he said. “But this is a little bit different situation. This is Grand Slam, yeah. You have different kind of emotions in your heart, so I think this Wimbledon goes in front of Bercy.”
In that title run in Paris last year, Janowicz edged Andy Murray en route. He will meet the Scot as a considerable underdog for a place in the Wimbledon final. “It will be a really cool match, a really nice atmosphere there. For sure crowd will not really help me, but we'll see how it's going to be,” Janowicz said.
“I hope Andy will feel some kind of pressure. I'm sure he feels some kind of pressure because Great Britain is waiting for the English champion in Wimbledon.”
Surely a slight confusion in geography and not a tongue-in-cheek dig at the proud Scot. “We'll see. I was able to win one match against him last year, so I hope I'm going to be able to do it one more time,” Janowicz said.
An expectant British public knows better than to pencil A. Murray into the final just yet.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...View all