After a year riddled with minor injuries and struggles with form, Jerzy Janowicz is into his first quarterfinal since Montpellier in February. TTI caught up with the tall Pole after his second round victory over Alejandro Falla.
Jerzy Janowicz is certainly one of the more enigmatic players on the ATP World Tour. The 24-year-old from Lodz kickstarted his career with a giant-killing run at the Paris Indoors in 2012, qualifying for the main draw before taking out a murderer’s row of Philipp Kohlschreiber, Marin Cilic, Andy Murray, Janko Tipsarevic and Gilles Simon and falling to David Ferrer in the final.
With his presence announced, it didn’t take long for the Pole to deliver on that Parisian promise; six months later, he reached the Wimbledon semifinals, hitting a career-high ranking of No. 14. But the last 18 months have seen the 6-foot-8 giant fail to live up to tall expectations; while he has made the occasional deep run at a tournament, he has been an early-event casualty just as many times. A foot injury complicated his preparation for the 2014 season and forced him to play catch up as a result.
Down to No. 51 and with a disappointing clay season behind him, Janowicz is glad the grass has arrived — a surface that suits his game far more than the terre battue.
“I think I’m moving pretty well,” he said on Thursday. “I have no problem moving on the grass; it’s a plus for me and also maybe my technique, which is pretty simple. I’m not using too much spin and my ball is coming very heavy to the opponent, so maybe that’s a plus.”
Janowicz left the 2013 US Open with an ugly parting gift in the form of a spine injury, leading to his withdrawal from several events that fall. In April this year, concerns arose that the ailment might be reemerging, and the 24-year old underwent several check ups on his back.
Two months later, the two-time junior Grand Slam finalist confirmed that he feels fine in body — it is rather the mental aspect that proves to be more challenging.
“Physically, I’m feeling really good; the only thing bothering me is my head,” he said. “I had some problems with my body and I’m just a little bit scared something’s gonna happen again. This is the only thing that’s worrying me.”
With those worries in the back of his mind, the first two weeks of the grass court season have done much to assuage lingering fears, leaving Janowicz optimistic when it comes to his on-court mentality.
“I was practicing really hard, and I was also working really hard on my fitness,” he said. “Tennis wise, I’m feeling ok and I think this is the best start to a grass season I’ve ever had.”
While the scoreline of his winning sets over Falla look fairly decisive, ease would be a deceptive conclusion to draw from the match — as Janowicz himself assessed after he came off of the court.
“The first and third set score lines don’t really show exactly how this match was,” he said. “He had a few break points, I had a few break points; so this match could have finished both ways. It was not easy to play against him because he is an extremely good grass court player. He moves really well and he’s solid as a rock. Especially on the return side, I felt like I’m facing the wall. Every single serve was coming back. So it was really not easy to play.”
Even though the quality of his serve placement dipped in the second set, the Pole was clutch when it counted, and was happy with the way he kept his focus.
In his next match, Janowicz will face the difficult task of playing No. 2 seed Kei Nishikori in what will be their first career meeting.
Notorious for wearing sunglasses on court, Janowicz found the lighting conditions on Halle’s Centre Court difficult to deal with due to the alternation of sun and clouds, along with the roof construction that provides some shade — but only in certain parts of the court.
“Definitely, the designer didn’t make the best job in his life! This roof is not perfect, especially when it’s sunny, because there’s a lot of shadows. So for me especially it’s not easy to play, tough conditions, so when there was no sun, it was no problem at all but when it was sunny I was struggling a bit.”
Although he wasn’t particularly impressed with the roof, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him change his tone come tomorrow. With rain scheduled for much of Friday’s forecast, an indoor grass court encounter might be exactly what the big-serving Pole wants in order to up his chances to of the upset and make his stay at the German ATP 500 event all the more successful.
What do you make of Janowicz’s chances on the grass this year? Sound off in the comments!