There are some up-and-comers we hear about even before they make the jump to the pros, others who had brilliant Junior careers and don’t fulfil their promises at the next level. There are also players who did well in the Juniors, took time to develop, in the shadows, and someday explode, but remain works in progress.
Jerzy Janowicz is from the last category.
The 21-year-old from Lodz (Poland) had a career high of number 5 in the Juniors, was runner-up at both the 2007 U.S. Open Junior and 2008 French Open Junior, and hasn’t been heard of much since, developing on the ITF Pro Circuit, but also in Challenger events.
It is at that level that the 6’8″ giant played most of this season, earning himself a 32-9 record. Incidentally, even having a potent serve and, especially, a massive forehand, which could lead him to shine on fast courts, the three Challenger titles he won this season were on clay, whereas his only lost final was on carpet.
On the ATP Tour, Janowicz qualified for his first career Grand Slam main draw in Wimbledon, where he made quite an impression, defeating Simone Bolelli (then ranked 188) and Ernests Gulbis (then at n° 87 and who had just beaten Tomas Berdych in the first round), before losing a tough five-setter against then n° 29 Florian Mayer.
The Pole then won his next two tournaments, the first title permitting him to enter the top 100, which gained him direct entry to the U.S. Open main draw, where he lost in the first round to Dennis Novikov, ranked 1,098 in the world at that time.
Entering the top 70 after a quarter-final appearance in Moscow a couple of weeks ago, the Pole had to play the qualifications to try and get into his first career main draw at the Masters 1000 of Paris-Bercy, which he successfully did by defeating Dmitry Tursunov and Florent Serra.
There begins this week’s story.
On Monday, Janowicz got his first top 20 win when he upset Philipp Kohlschreiber, ranked 19 in the world, 7-6(5) 6-4. The emotions had just started for “JJ”, as on Tuesday, he was facing 13th seed Marin Cilic. Indeed, Cilic did not come playing his best tennis, and it was all the contrary for Janowicz, who had another great day at the service line, conceding only 10 points on serve, and took every opportunity given him by an erratic Cilic to fly with the triumph, 7-6(6) 6-2, in 1:26.
Overcome by emotion, the Pole sat on his chair and buried his face in his towel. He had just beaten a top 15 player for the first time in his career, and reached his first round-of-16 in a Masters 1000, he who came all the way from the qualifications. Furthermore, he is now likely to end this season in the top 60, a career high.
Is Jerzy Janowicz the next real deal? It is way too soon to tell. After all, he is only 21, has only had those two great performances so far at the highest level, and still needs to perfect and develop some elements of his game. However, one thing seems certain: at this rate, the top 30 can be a good goal for him for the beginning of 2013.
Thursday: A new chapter to the fairy tale
Jerzy Janowicz added a new chapter to his Paris fairy tale on Thursday, when he faced World n° 3 Andy Murray, whom he had played against, and lost to, in the Davis Cup back in 2009.
At first, the Pole seemed a bit nervous, which was understandable. After all, he was playing a top 5 player on a big stage for the first time. Nevertheless, he slowly got into form, booming aces and varying the play in a pretty unconventional way, using the drop shot almost to excess, and kept the Scotsman from gaining any rhythm.
In the 10th game of the initial set, Janowicz got a bit tight, and ended up being broken for the first time in all the tournament, including the qualifications. Murray laboriously closed out the set, 7-5, and quickly took a break advantage in the second, only to get broken after having had match point when attempting to book his quarter-final spot.
Things then unravelled and not the pretty way for the Brit, who lost the second set in the tiebreak and then seemed to just let go, in a very negative way, whereas his rival just started playing even more loosely, returning as well as he served, using a speed few knew him to possess to reach at times impossible shots.
After 2:25, 22 aces and a lot of intensity, the Polish Tower achieved the biggest win of his career for a third consecutive match, this time 5-7 7-6(4) 6-2, over the third best player in the world.
We can understand him for falling to the ground as though he had just won the tournament after this amazing victory. I don’t think that even in his wildest dreams, the Pole saw himself doing so great the first time he qualified for a Masters 1000 main draw. Defeating, in back-to-back matches, a top 20, a top 15, and a top 5 is a feat that can be quite overwhelming for anyone.
After the match, Janowicz spoke with emotion to the media, recalling the many sacrifices his parents (both former volleyball players) made to help him get where he is.
Relieved about the money he will make this week, Janowicz nevertheless hopes that sponsorship deals will come his way soon. Whatever happens in the quarter-finals, we can be sure they will come his way, especially since this performance will make the Pole enter the top 50 when the new rankings come out.
In the quarter-finals, Janowicz will try to add another chapter to his fabulous Paris story when he will face Janko Tipsarevic. Can he do it? I think he proved all week that everything is possible.
He also proved that he is not just a serve (which is pretty obvious when we consider he won his three Challenger titles on clay), but that is another matter…