May 23 (Reuters) - Whether ripping shirts or forehand winners, or thumping down serves with frightening velocity, Jerzy Janowicz is making a big impression at the top of men’s tennis and is ready to take Paris by storm again.
The 22-year-old Pole, whose fiery on-court demeanour revives memories of a young Marat Safin, livened up proceedings in Rome last week with victories over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet before losing a tight tussle with Roger Federer.
Lodz-based Janowicz, who came from nowhere to reach the Paris Masters final indoors last year, has not endeared himself to everyone with his antics on court and was accused by some television commentators of gamesmanship during his defeat of Gasquet.
Yet, with a career-high ranking of 23 and a “no-prisoners” attitude on court, Janowicz is already being tipped as a player who can eventually threaten the top order and is clearly not scared of ruffling feathers.
But for some poor shot selection at crucial moments against Federer in their quarter-final clash in Rome, Janowicz could have added another major scalp to his collection.
Nevertheless Federer liked what he saw and believes Janowicz can be a threat at the French Open where he will be playing in the main draw for the first time after losing in the final qualifying round last year.
”It is refreshing playing someone like Janowicz because he keeps coming through strong and keeps you guessing,“ Federer said in Rome. ”He has a big serve and he usually gets the first (attacking) stroke in so that makes it tough to play him.
“He obviously has a big game, unconventional shot selection at times, but (is) really fun to watch.”
A year ago Janowicz was playing on the second-tier Challenger circuit and did not make his debut in a grand-slam tournament’s main draw until last year’s Wimbledon where he reached the third round.
After his stunning run in Bercy late last year when he beat three top-20 players as well as Andy Murray en route to a final defeat by David Ferrer, Janowicz suffered a dip in form in the first few months of this season as he went down with various ailments.
However he exploded back to life against Tsonga in Rome, celebrating a straight-sets win by ripping his shirt to pieces.
“This my whole life, my passion for 15 years, and this is my love in the world,” Janowicz, who shed tears during his run at the Paris Masters last year when he became the first Pole to reach the final since Wojciech Fibak won the 1982 tournament, told reporters.
There was plenty of passion on show at this year’s Australian Open as well, when he railed against a line judge after a call went against him during a match against Somdev Devvarman.
In Rome, he courted controversy against Gasquet when he appeared to point to the wrong ball mark after asking the chair umpire to inspect where the Frenchman’s volley had landed.
He then ranted at the umpire when Gasquet got away with a double bounce while chasing down one of Janowicz’s many drop shots and from then on the 2.03-metre right-hander greeted each winning point with bellowing roars and wild gesticulations.
While still a little rough around the edges, there is no doubt he has the weapons to cause damage at the French Open and the looming grasscourt season could also offer opportunities for him to further his reputation.
“He is talented and a great mover and probably best on the clay courts,” Federer said.
“You underestimate how tall he is and he moves well for a tall guy and (is) so talented.” (Editing by Clare Fallon)