Poland’s big day: 2 men reach Wimbledon quarters
LONDON (AP) — On one of Poland’s best days on the tennis court, one of Poland’s best players gave a shout-out to none other than ... America’s Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.
Hard to blame Jerzy Janowicz for that.
Truth is, apart from Wojtek Fibak, a wily doubles foe of John McEnroe’s who made three Grand Slam singles quarterfinals in 1980, there aren’t many luminaries to choose from on the list of Poland’s greatest men’s tennis stars.
“Yeah, it’s unbelievable what’s going on right now,” Janowicz said after beating Jurgen Melzer 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 at Wimbledon on Monday to become Poland’s first men’s Grand Slam quarterfinalist since Fibek.
Janowicz’s next opponent: That would be Lukasz Kubot, whose five-set win over Adrian Mannarino ended minutes after Janowicz’s victory, thus making him Poland’s second men’s Grand Slam quarterfinalist in 33 years.
Kubot celebrated by walking to the far end of the service line, then doing his own version of the can-can, high-stepping it across the court before falling into the arms of his coach and friends in the stands.
“My (coaches) told me that every time I’m going to play on the big courts, the big tournaments, big events, I should do the can-can after a win,” Kubot said. “So I’ve had no other chances and I had to do it.”
Janowicz, the 22-year-old who said he grew up wanting to be like Sampras and Agassi, will meet Kubot on Wednesday and the winner will become Poland’s first men’s Grand Slam semifinalist.
Keeping an eye on that one will be Agnieszka Radwanska, also from Poland, who won her own match, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 over Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, to move to the quarterfinals and cap a great day for her country.
“They really have nothing to lose,” Radwanska said. “For sure that will be very good match.”
When Serena Williams lost, fourth-seeded Radwanska became the highest-seeded player left in an upset-strewn women’s draw. She was a finalist here last year, so seeing her this far along in the tournament isn’t such a surprise.
(Quick stat: Poland has three of the final 16 singles spots at Wimbledon this week. The United States? One: Sloane Stephens.)
The men are a different story.
Though Janowicz vaulted nearly 200 spots in the rankings when he made the finals at the 2012 Paris Masters — “I gave answer to this question about 58 times,’” he said when asked how that changed his life — this is only his fifth Grand Slam tournament. At 6-foot-8, he’s advancing with the help of a serve that has topped out at 140 mph, the fastest of the tournament so far.
In his win over Melzer, Janowicz was hardly acting like a newbie, bickering with the umpire, at one point complaining after a call on the baseline: “The ball was so out. It’s only one line! It’s not complicated! One line!”
Afterward, he griped about the condition of Court 12, saying he slipped four times during his 3 hour, 12 minute match.
“I think this Court 12 is unplayable,” he said. “Was really bad conditions today.”
Kubot’s court assignment for his match against Mannarino was even less plum.
They played on Court 14 — a court near a busy walkway that more fans breeze past than pay attention to. The match all the makings of a typical Monday showdown at the All England Club. The first Monday, that is, not the second.
Couldn’t blame the schedulers for that.
Mannarino was ranked 111 and Kubot 130.
Kubot’s career record before Monday’s match was 90-106 and he hadn’t been past the round of 16 in any tournament this year.
But things are changing quickly. After getting a walkover over Steve Darcis, the man who beat Rafael Nadal in the first round, Kubot won in straight sets over 25th-seeded Benoit Paire. He had 26 aces against Mannarino — 10 more than his big-serving countryman had in his five-setter — including 11 in the fifth set.
The 31-year-old Kubot said playing doubles, where he’s enjoyed more consistent success, has put him on the court with a lot of the best players and prepared him for something like this.
“So I didn’t feel surprised,” he said of the feelings of being in a big match.
Next up, a meeting with Janowicz, his Davis Cup teammate who, back in 2006, was approached by the Qatari government, asking if he’d play for that oil-rich country.
“I actually said, straightaway, ‘No,’” Janowicz said.
Why not? “Because.”
Turns out, playing for Poland has served him quite well.
“You should go to Poland and see what’s going to happen,” Kubot said. “I think that tennis is getting very popular in Poland, and I’m happy and proud we can represent our country in these kinds of tournaments.”