Tennis: Giant Pole turns game around big time

By Steve Deane

Janowicz hitting pay-dirt on circuit after meteoric rise up the rankings

A cheque for US$435 ($527) was the reward for Jerzy Janowicz when he began his 2012 campaign by bombing out of a Futures tournament in Glasgow at the hands of David Rice - the world's 499th best tennis player.

Just 10 months later, the 22-year-old Polish rising star ended his season by going down to David Ferrer in the final of the Paris Masters, banking €234,865 ($371,392) for his troubles. Even by pro tennis's bust and boom standards, that's some turnaround.

Janowicz's isn't your classic rags to riches story. True, he sat out last year's Australian Open because he couldn't afford the flights, but he doesn't exactly come from the mean streets of Warsaw.

His parents, both former professional volleyball players, have invested "at least a half million euros" in his development. With Janowicz shooting up the rankings from 221 to 26 in the space of a season, that investment appears to have hit pay-dirt.

The fifth seed at the Heineken Open next week, Janowicz took the tennis world by the short and curlies and slapped it around at October's Paris Masters. Having battled through qualifying, the then unknown dis-patched five top 20 players - including reigning US Open Champion Andy Murray - en route to the final.

His rise, he insists, was about more than just that one remarkable tournament. He changed rackets and hired a new fitness coach, and the results soon followed. Paris was the end game of a campaign that steadily built from back to back Challenger Tour victories and a third round appearance in Wimbledon.

"At the beginning of the year I didn't play good," he said after a gruelling 30-hour flight to Auckland from Warsaw. "At a $10,000 tournament in England I lost to a guy ranked 600 [actually 499]. But after a few months I got better and I was in the third round at Wimbledon.

"The whole season was pretty good for me. The last tournament in Paris was a little bit too much. I went to the final and beat a few guys in the top 10, but for me it was a little bit too much."

No surprise, really, that he couldn't deal with Heineken Open top seed David Ferrer in Paris. Including qualifying, that campaign was eight matches, most of them against the game's elite.

Things should be a little bit easier in Auckland for the giant Pole, who will enjoy the advantage of being seeded as he attempts to acclimatise from the -15C temperatures that froze Warsaw solid last week.

Janowicz has more to thank his parents for than the significant lump of cash they put into his career. At 2.03m and 91kg, he has seriously impressive genetics on his side. Big head, big hands, big everything, really, is the way to describe him. He has the game to match.

"My plus is that I am really quick, and it's not like I am afraid of rallying from the baseline. For example, I am not like [Ivo] Karlovic, he uses a lot of serve and volley. I'd rather stay on the baseline and play from there."

While his goal in Auckland is modest - simply to play a couple of matches and get some rust out ahead of the Australian Open - he would relish the prospect of a rematch with Ferrer. "As I said after the final in Paris, I would love to have revenge against him. For sure, he's not an easy opponent, he is one of the best players in the world. This is my first tournament, so I don't know how it's going to be.

"But if I lose in the first round, okay, I will practise for a little bit and get used to the weather, maybe I will get a chance to play against him at the Australian Open."

The way he's been tracking, Janowicz should get plenty more chances.

- NZ Herald

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