LONDON — More than an hour after making history at Wimbledon as the first Polish man to reach a Grand Slam semifinal, the usually nonchalant Jerzy Janowicz was still in shock.
“I practiced really tough my whole life. I had some troubles also during my career. You are practicing and working for that kind of moment,” said the 22-year-old Janowicz. “So in my case, it’s not easy for me to control these emotions.”
The 24th-seeded Janowicz beat Davis Cup teammate Lukasz Kubot 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday in the first all-Polish meeting in a Grand Slam men’s draw.
After the final point, the friends warmly hugged at the net and then swapped shirts, as soccer players often do. Janowicz then sat in his chair and started to sob.
“Right now, I’m the most happy person in the world,” he said later. “This is what I was waiting for. This is what I was dreaming about. So as I can see, sometimes if you are dreaming about something really hard, it can actually happen.”
Neither Janowicz, who will next face second-seeded Andy Murray in Friday’s semifinals, or Kubot had ever played a fellow Polish player before.
“I said, `Let’s go. Let’s exchange. Let’s make our tennis more famous, more popular, and show that Poland tennis is in the map of tennis,”’ Kubot said about the shirt exchange. “Because this had never happened before, and that’s it. I think it just shows how important is the fair play and shows the friendship on the court. We’re just fighting with every point, but when the match is finished, we are friends. We are just showing that this is only sport.”
Janowicz, who reached the third round last year at the All England Club, is playing in only his third grass-court tournament. Before this year’s Wimbledon tournament, he lost in the first round in Halle.
But his task on Wednesday at Wimbledon was made harder because he was facing a friend.
“Honestly saying, if I have to compare this match to some other matches, this was one of the toughest matches of my life,” Janowicz said.
Before this week, only two other Polish men had reached the quarterfinals at a major tournament. Although he could not hide his disappointment, Kubot lauded his friend’s victory.
“We knew one Polish guy would be in the semifinals,” said the 130th-ranked Kubot, his eyes still red. “As I said, I had only one chance today; I didn’t make it. Jerzy definitely deserved to win this match. He was better player today. I just want to wish him good luck, and of course I’m going to cross my fingers for him.”
Coming from a nation that does not have a grass-court history, Janowicz served 30 aces on Court No. 1 and can still dream of following in the footsteps of his childhood idol, Pete Sampras.
But to keep dreaming, he will first need to beat Murray, whom he defeated at the Paris Masters last year.
“Against Andy, it will be a really cool match, a really nice atmosphere there,” Janowicz said. “For sure the crowd will not really help me. He’s great player, so definitely not an easy match.
“I’m really happy I was able to reach that far in Wimbledon, but I hope deep down I will still get two more matches.”