Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are ancient history at 2013 Wimbledon, leaving the so called “quarter of death” without a perennial champion. It also clears the path for young star Jerzy Janowicz and his powerful skills. He may be the most significant Polish force to step into Great Britain since his homeland’s aviators assisted the British in World War II.
Janowicz, age 22, represents the hopes of tennis’s next generation. At 6’8”, he is the prototypical threat that stirs up fan excitement on Wimbledon’s fast lawns. He averaged 130 mph on first serves, and pounded out 30 aces in his third-round, straight-sets pummeling of World No. 16 Nicolas Almagro.
The Almagro match was Janowicz’s showcase for why he is a threat to win Wimbledon. His big serves thwart his opponent’s rhythm and are backed by a massive forehand—a powerful swing that gives him the appearance of a basketball center when he leaps up and hits through the court. Almagro faced immense pressure in holding serve, and he could not establish his own tempo.
Janowicz was also remarkably efficient with a stunning 59 winners and only 15 unforced errors. Furthermore, he showed his golden touch with a handful of drop shots. He was the puppet master, pulling the strings on his helpless opponent.
The big Pole hopes to leap past his big performance late in 2012 at the Paris Masters. There he defeated Andy Murray and stormed all the way to the finals before falling to David Ferrer. He is especially cut out for indoor, fast hard and grass courts.
He doesn’t mince words, either. As reported by Matt Trollope on Wimbledon.com, he said "I’m playing great tennis, feeling confident and I hope I’m gonna win."
His biggest challenge may come with added pressure. How will he react when adversity stalls his game plan? He is still on trial after his second-round meltdown at the Australian Open. In the first-set tiebreaker, he exploded at the line judge with a temper tantrum that became a YouTube sensation—over 1.3 million views and counting.
Janowicz may have imposing tennis weapons, but he is slated to play the crafty left-hander Jurgen Melzer, who is skilled at returning big serves. Expect his opponent to look forward to the challenge, as he stated in The Guardian. Melzer said "I don't mind playing big servers, so let's see. The key will be to return his serve, to get a read, and get as many balls back as possible."
There are other tests for Janowicz. A second week at Wimbledon often creates very different conditions and more resilient opponents. The first week’s slick grass is worn more into packed dirt, and the bounce will cause the ball to stay up longer, taking an edge off Janowicz’s power.
Will he continue to dictate matches with his offensive blasts? How will his footwork and stamina respond with a match that requires more rallies and defense?
Still, the future is now for Janowicz. There is an increasing buzz surrounding his matches, and a level of excitement reserved for those who flirt with the sensation of being the next big star in tennis.
Janowicz hopes to be a part of bar conversations about upstart players. It’s been a long time since a new arrival made his splash at Wimbledon. Federer fans remember his 2001 quarterfinal victory over Pete Sampras. Young Goran Ivanisevic blasted his way to the semifinals in 1990. The ultimate standard is 17-year-old Boris Becker, who won Wimbledon in 1985 and defended his title a year later.
Are we watching a breakthrough performance from Janowicz? Is he the future of tennis? We are ready for more answers as the second week at Wimbledon separates the pretenders from contenders.