By John Delong
Jerzy Janowicz prides himself in being a fighter, and that was never more evident than Friday night in the semifinals of the Winston-Salem Open.
The 23-year-old from Poland came back from down a set and a break, and eventually pulled out a dramatic 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over Sam Querrey.
It was one of the most exciting matches in the WSO’s four-year history and it ended with Janowicz breaking Querrey twice to win the final three games of the match, after being down a break in the third. He also broke Querrey twice at the end of the second set, after Querrey was serving for the match at 5-4.
“These kind of matches give me a lot of confidence,” Janowicz said. “I was really close to losing this match. I was a break down in the second set and Sam was serving for the match. It’s not easy to come back against Sam because as you know he has a huge serve, he served the most aces in this tournament. So it’s not easy to come back, but luckily I came back and it will give me confidence for sure.”
Janowicz will now face Lukas Rosol in Saturday’s final.
He’ll be gunning for his first career ATP World Tour title, a career that has seen him reach as high as No. 14 in the rankings last December. He’s currently ranked No. 52, largely because of the effects of a foot injury that sidelined him for several months late last year.
The Wimbledon semifinalist in 2013, who burst onto the scene by beating five Top 20 opponents and reaching the final of the Paris Masters in 2012, was not about to jinx himself when asked what his first career title would mean to him.
“I will tell you tomorrow if I can win,” he said.
After losing the first set, Janowicz found himself in a do-or-die situation with Querrey serving at 5-4 in the second set. He never panicked, raced to a love-40 lead and eventually got the break.
“I just said to myself, “Let’s try to win this game, and we’ll see how it’s going to be,’” Janowicz said. “I know I had to fight for every single ball, and as you can see, if you are fighting, anything can happen.”
Janowicz then found himself down a break in the third after needing a medical time out for what he termed a “stretched” left foot.
Again, he turned the tables in dramatic fashion, breaking Querrey twice again for the victory.
Janowicz wound up converting five of 14 break opportunities, while Querrey converted four of 20.
“Definitely was extremely tough match today,” Janowicz said. “I didn’t play my best tennis today. I didn’t feel perfect like I did against (David) Goffin yesterday. But as you can see I was fighting to the end. You could also see Sam was getting tired a little bit, maybe because of my drop shots, I don’t know. So it’s always nice to win that kind of match. It means for me a lot.”
Querrey, who was making his third straight trip to the semifinals at the WSO, called the loss “a bummer.” He said he began cramping up in the third set, and clearly was physically drained by the end of the match.
But he was pleased with his showing here, reaching his third semifinal of the year and the first since spring. He came to the WSO ranked No. 56, working his way back up the rankings after dropping all the way to No. 82 in April.
“In the big picture, I’m pretty happy,” Querrey said. “It’s the first time I’ve played five matches in a row all year. I played consistent the whole week. My forehand felt good, my serve felt pretty good, and that’s the best streak of matches I’ve played all year. So I feel good going to the Open.”