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Last kick for Lukasz Kubot

Lukasz Kubot in his quarter-final match.
by Matt Trollope
Wednesday 3 July 2013

Alas, no more high-kicking will grace Wimbledon's lawns in 2013.

That was the signature celebratory dance of Lukasz Kubot, who on Wednesday lost in the first-ever all-Polish quarter-final at a Grand Slam to Jerzy Janowicz.

In fact, it was the first all-Polish affair in a Grand Slam men’s draw at any stage, one which the younger, higher-ranked and equally-charismatic Janowicz won 7-5 6-4 6-4 on No.1 Court to progress to the semi-finals.

But back to the high kicks.

We first saw them when Kubot beat world No.8 Gael Monfils in the third round at Wimbledon in 2011, a major upset given his status as a qualifier in the draw. After shaking the Frenchman’s hand, he gestured to his entourage and then high-kicked, can-can style, all the way from the service line to his courtside chair.

As if proving that run of six straight wins at the tournament – he eventually fell 7-5 in the fifth set to Feliciano Lopez in round four – was no fluke, he went one better this year.

There were more high-kicks as he beat No.25 seed Benoit Paire – another Frenchman, also in the third round – before ousting Adrian Mannarino in five, a result that sent the 31-year-old journeyman, who turned pro in 2002, into his first major quarter-final.

It was an astounding result given he’d won just four tour-level matches in 2013, none back-to-back, and had slipped to world No.130 from his high of No.41 three years ago.

“It's amazing feeling. It was always my dream… to be honest it was final call for me because my ranking before this tournament was very far [down]. I was out of top 100; now I'm getting back,” he reflected.

“I'm happy to take those chances in the draw, and this result I think will give me a lot of confidence and give me a chance again to compete in singles still.”

Today, unfortunately, he came up against an opponent in devastating form. Janowicz has been serving incredibly during this event, and continued to do so today, cranking 30 aces, 58 winners (to just 14 errors), and reaching speeds on his first delivery of almost 143mph. Kubot, who takes pride in his return, found his greatest strength utterly nullified.

Yet he admirably plugged away, unveiling a classic serve-and-volley style on the grass. He advanced to the net 54 times and also finished with a tidy winners-to-errors tally of 32-11.

He seemed to enjoy the occasion, smiling after a reflexive, diving volley winner and soaking up the stadium-court atmosphere, which until today, he had only experienced when playing doubles.

But in the ninth game of the third set, Janowicz’s power proved insurmountable. He produced a pair of winning backhands followed by a brutal forehand winner to move ahead 0-40, and although Kubot levelled at deuce, Janowicz eventually scored the decisive break to move up 5-4. He powered through his subsequent service game to seal victory.

Heartily embracing his Davis Cup teammate and friend, Kubot suggested they swap shirts.

“I said, ‘Let's go. Let's exchange. Let's make our tennis more famous, more popular, and show that Poland tennis is in the map of tennis’. Because this never happen before, and that's it,” he recounted.

“I think it just shows how important is the fair play and shows the friendship on the court. We're just fighting, you know, with every point, but when match is finished we are friends. We are just showing that this is only sport.”

Kubot had been the top-ranked Pole for several years until the emergence of Janowicz in 2012, and today found himself playing second-fiddle once more. But he bore no ill-will, insisting Janowicz was the better player and deserving victor.

“I just want to wish him good luck, and of course I'm going to cross the fingers for another match [win] for him,” he said.

If that win were to happen, it would come against second seed and hometown hero Andy Murray.

It might just be enough to prompt another round of celebratory high-kicking from Kubot in honour of his compatriot.

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