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Some light for Jerzy Janowicz after the gloom

Jerzy Janowicz on No.17 Court
by Matt Trollope
Tuesday 24 June 2014

The last time we saw Jerzy Janowicz at Wimbledon, the Pole was smoking aces at 150 mph and wowing crowds with his extraordinary power en route to the semi-finals. Before a packed Centre Court, he made life very difficult for eventual champion Andy Murray in the last four, and boosted his ranking inside the top 20. Even bigger achievements surely awaited.

Yet time – and a player’s health – can render even the most likely of scenarios non-existent. One year on, Janowicz returned to the All England Club on remote Court 17, having lost 10 of his past 12 matches and struggling to regain his stellar form following injuries. In late 2013 it was a bad back; during the Australian summer of 2014 he was managing a broken foot. Despite playing regularly again, he went from March to May without a single victory.

It seemed an appearance at the All England Club was precisely the tonic Janowicz required to revive him from his slump, for after a slow start – and a lapse with the finish line in sight – he rediscovered some of the tennis that took him deep into last year’s Championships in eliminating Somdev Devvarman 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

“It's of course nice to come back. I have still in my mind what happened last year. But everything depends how I'm going to do this year,” Janowicz said with a smile.

“I'm a little bit disappointed because actually before the match I felt pretty okay. During the practice I played really good. Today, I expect from myself a little bit more, but lucky that I pulled it off. We'll see how it's going to be during the next match.”

Early on, Janowicz simply looked to have picked up from where he left off last year. Ranked 25th but seeded 15th thanks to his 2013 performance, he displayed a varied repertoire of power, touch and athleticism to break serve in the third game. But when the Indian broke back in the very next game to level at 2-2, Janowicz began to wilt. A disastrous 10th game – during which he double-faulted, plopped a drop shot into the net, and sprayed two forehands – saw him broken to love to lose the set.

Even as the second set began the Pole looked at sea; at one stage he powered a serve only to end up stuck flat-footed at three-quarter court, hitting Devvarman’s return on the full and off-balance and eventually losing the point.

Yet after holding for 1-1, he looked increasingly at home on the lawns. Janowicz extracted an error from the net-bound Devvarman with a scorching backhand to break for a 4-3 lead, and increased the power in the next game with athletic overhead and airborne backhand winners to hold to love. A backhand passing shot winner in the next game handed him the set.

After committing 23 errors in the opening set, Janowicz had limited his total to five in the second. He was equally impressive in the third, breaking early en route to a 3-0 lead against an increasingly despondent opponent. Ceaselessly attacking both from the baseline and in the forecourt, the Pole soon stood just one set from victory, and moved even closer with a service break that pushed him ahead 2-0 in the fourth.

Yet his delivery faltered. Every service game was now a struggle for Janowicz, who was broken in the fourth game and later coughed up his seventh double fault of the set – he finished the match with 19 – to surrender yet another service game. A backhand winner from Devvarman sent the match into a deciding fifth.

Janowicz finally shook off his game opponent in the fourth game. Countering Devvarman’s net-rushing tactics with well-weighted lobs, he broke for a 3-1 lead and never looked back. His serve fired when it came time to close out the match, and three winners – forehand, swinging volley and backhand – saw him book a date in the second round with 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt.

“Lleyton is really, really good player. He won the Wimbledon, so he has a lot of experience. He's extremely solid. He has a great backhand. He doesn't miss much. He has a really nasty serve, maybe not that powerful, but it's really accurate,” Janowicz observed.

“So I'll have to play my best tennis.”

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