Friday 5 July 2013
Jerzy Janowicz has a word for what is happening to him at the 2013 Championships - "unbelievable".
This 6ft 8in son of parents who were both professional volleyball players in Poland has hammered his way into the semi-finals of the gentlemen's singles, where his opponent will be Andy Murray. of Great Britain. On Centre Court.
Enough, surely, to induce a nervous gulp from a 22-year-old who is unknown to the vast majority of the British sporting public and who only got into the main draw of last summer's Championships by way of the qualifying competition (yet still got to the third round).
Not a bit of it. Jerzy is looking forward to the occasion. "It will be a really cool match, a really nice atmosphere," he forecast. But in adding the comment "For sure, the crowd will not really help me," is a contender for sporting understatement of the year.
He feels, with reason, that there will be more pressure on Murray "because Great Britain is waiting for an English champion at Wimbledon."
And, in any case, beating Murray is something he has already achieved, by a score of 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2, at the Paris Open in Bercy Stadium last November. "The match was really close," he recalled. "Andy had a match point. It was a really long rally, he missed the shot by a few centimetres. So I could have lost easily."
Losing easily was what happened to him in their only other confrontation, in a 2009 Davis Cup tie, as Murray ran out a straight sets win by a score of 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. Murray is unlikely to have things quite so comfortably tomorrow against someone whose long legs have made vast strides since he ended the 2011 season ranked No.221 in the world.
Until he defeated his close friend and Davis Cup team mate Lukasz Kubot in Wednesday's quarter-finals, the highlight of his young career had been that Paris tournament, where he ended as runner-up to David Ferrer. "But this Wimbledon is my best tournament ever, ahead of Bercy. Right now I'm the most happy person in the world.
"This is a really big thing for me," he added. "This is what I was waiting for. This is what I was dreaming about. Sometimes if you dream really hard about something it can actually happen. So I am happy to get this far in Wimbledon. But I hope deep down I will still get two more matches. Andy is a great player, so definitely it won't be an easy match. But I was able to win against him last year, so I hope I'm going to be able to do it one more time."
For someone who is the clear leader of the "ace race" at these Championships, it is unusual to hear him claim that the forehand is his key shot. So far Janowicz has thundered down 94 aces in his five matches, with Murray in second place with 60. "Definitely my forehand is my biggest weapon. On my serve the most important thing is to get the point, it doesn't matter how, doesn't matter if it's going to be an ace. On grass it's a little bit easier to get points on my serve."
That said, grass is not his favourite surface. "I would rather play on clay or a hard court because I'm simply more used to it. The biggest problem with grass is I don't have a chance to practise on it because we don't have any grass courts in Poland. So with basically three weeks' possibility to play on grass I have to like it somehow, but with my game I think grass suits me well."
With no Polish role models to follow when he was growing up, Pete Sampras became his idol, which may help to explain his excellence on the serve. He is at a loss to explain why Polish tennis is suddenly flourishing, but reiterates his loyalty to his homeland. "I'm really proud to represent my country. I haven't missed one Davis Cup match since 2008."
Seven years ago he won his first junior title at a tournament in Saudi Arabia and afterwards he was offered the chance to take up Qatari citizenship. "I said no straightaway."
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