It’s been quite a breakthrough week for Jerzy Janowicz who finds himself battling for the BNP PariBas Masters 1000 title against David Ferrer Sunday in Paris. The 21-year-old qualifier first made international news at Wimbledon where in his first Grand Slam main draw he muscled his way to the third round, also as a qualifier. And this week he’s outdone himself time and again with a slew of career wins including one over Andy Murray on Thursday.
Just in his first full year on the circuit, he joins fellow youngsters like Milos Raonic, Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic, Grigor Dimitrov, Jack Sock and Dennis Novikov, who beat Janowicz in the US Open first round, as part of the next wave of tennis superstars.
So who is this 6-foot-8 budding future star? Here’s some background on him from his Paris pressers from this week:
Once again it was an incredible performance from your part today. Were you feeling still like in the dream, or maybe the second set you started to understand what was at stake maybe?
JERZY JANOWICZ: I think my answer will be actually the same like yesterday, the same like two days ago. I’m in the final, so this is unbelievable feeling. I could never expect something like this one week before. When I had match point today I felt a little bit strange. I had chicken skin (goose bumps). I was a little bit nervous during this match point, but this was really unbelievable feeling. I just said to myself before this match point to not change anything, just to play the same game as I played before. I did this. I finished the match with a dropshot. (Laughter.)
Well played. Obviously you didn’t expect to get to the final, but did you think that you could play tennis at this level? Did you know somewhere inside you there was this level of tennis that you could play?
JERZY JANOWICZ: I was always confident guy, but I was dreaming about top 100. I broke top 100 this year. But I could never expect something like this. Like as a qualifier I came here to play qualifications, and suddenly I’m in the final. Honestly saying, I’m 69th ranked guy in the world and suddenly I am in the final. For me this is still like I cannot believe this actually. How is this possible? I came here just to play qualifications, and suddenly after few days I’m not final. I don’t know how did I this, but tomorrow is final waiting for me. Wow. (Smiling.)
You mentioned before you had trouble getting sponsors. In the last couple days have there been more phone calls or more people coming forward to offer sponsorship?
JERZY JANOWICZ: The street next to my house actually is completely blocked. There is like about nine or ten cars, TVs, and it’s completely blocked. There is no way to get to my house right now. So I think after this final I have a chance to find some really good sponsors and I will not have to worry about the money. For sure I get some money just from the tournament of course here, but when you are making final in this kind of tournament, you should have some sponsors anyway.
For some people here, we have the impression your game is looking like Marat Safin when he won in 2004. Were you watching him play? Do you think it’s accurate comparison?
JERZY JANOWICZ: I don’t think so I’m able to compare myself to that kind of player because he was superstar for me. This is only one tournament, so I have to still wait to be able to compare myself to him. Always I like Marat Safin. He was all the time tough guy on the court. He was also fighting for every single ball; sometimes with himself. But we have to still wait a little bit. This is just basically only one week, and I have still to work a lot to became that kind of player like Marat.
It is the first time in your life that you reach such a stage on this kind of tournament, but there is something very impressive with you: It’s that you stay very calm, very quiet during the game. Is it a surprise for you? How do you manage to stay so quiet?
JERZY JANOWICZ: Honestly saying, always I was mentally tough. I never had that problem with the stress. But honestly saying, I could never expect I will be actually that strong, because this was my first semifinal match in that kind of tournament. So actually I didn’t know what I should expect actually from my side. I didn’t know if I’m strong enough to handle that kind of pressure. Today I played against a French guy, and French crowd was helping him a lot. They were clapping after my double faults, after missing the first serve. I don’t know how I was able to handle it. I hope tomorrow I will do the same.
On changes he made this year:
In the beginning of this year, I had many changes in my life. I changed the racquet. This racquet which I’m using right now is helping me a lot. Even if I have some weak days, this racquet is actually helping me. So this is one change.
The second one is, I [have] a new fitness coach this year, and he’s helping me a lot. I’m doing a lot of fitness. When I’m at home I’m actually doing more fitness than tennis. So there is this other change. My behavior on the court is also a little bit different. I decided [I'm] not to give up, whatever the situation is. I’m fighting right now for every single ball.
On his parents who were pro volleyball players in Poland:
My mother was the Polish champion, the Turkish champion, so she was a really good volleyball player. I didn’t start to play volleyball because they finished [their] careers [before] I was born. My father started to play tennis as an amateur, and I was watching him, how he’s doing this, and this was basically my beginning.
On being unable to sleep after beating Murray:
I could sleep, no problem (joking). I slept very well two hours, so no problem to sleep whatsoever. I stayed on my computer for a few hours. I just went to sleep at 5 a.m. I just was not able to sleep [last] night, but as I can see, it doesn’t matter if I sleep. I don’t eat. Right now I’m playing the best tennis of my life.
On lacking enough money to play the Australian Open:
This year I didn’t go to Australian Open because I just didn’t have money to play this tournament, so I hope after this week, my life will change a little bit, and actually it changed already.
On where he got his mental toughness:
I was a bad boy at primary school. In high school, I was fighting with everyone, with the teachers. I was a really bad guy. Somehow it’s really not easy for me to explain why I’m that kind of guy. Yesterday, I played against Andy Murray and I didn’t feel pressure at all. I just was trying to play my best tennis.
Even more from Jerzy:
Highlights from his Murray win:
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