The Internazionali BNL d’Italia has contributed little to the debate about the chances of the top players at Roland Garros, but beneath the elite there is one name that does not wash over the memory.
World number 24 Jerzy Janowicz only registered on Polish radars before 2012 but last year he broke through at the Paris Masters and has been upsetting those in the higher echelons of the game ever since.
The 6ft 8” Pole, with a personality to match his size, became only the second qualifier in history to reach the final of a Masters event, brushing and battling past five top-20 players including world number nine at the time, Janko Tipsarevic and US Open champion Andy Murray.
Considering he started his 2012 season ranked 221 it shouldn’t be discouraging that his sudden change of circumstances took some time to adjust to with a couple of first round defeats, but he showed in Rome last week all of the qualities that will make him one of the most dreaded draws on the circuit for those with expectations of making the second week in the season’s second Slam.
Janowicz saved eight break points on the way to winning his first set of the tournament, twice coming back from love-40 down to take the game, evidence of the belief that is one of his most valuable attributes.
He had all the answers for world number eight Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next round, always looking the more comfortable of the two, and no-one watching that game could say the underdog was flattered by the straight sets scoreline.
With only eight players left, many with the achievements of the week already sealed can often fail to turn up again, but as the world’s number nine Richard Gasquet discovered, Janowicz was playing, as if from scratch, with no trace that the job for the tournament had already been completed.
Janowicz’s ability to utilise momentum and reel off a series of big victories without a hangover was the hallmark of his top-flight christening last year and makes him of serious interest in the opening rounds in France’s capital next week.
His semi-final defeat to Roger Federer was expected, but the fact that so many were putting the question to the Swiss maestro that he might struggle says everything about the impression he made on the Italian capital’s clay.
From stature, many would assume that the game is wholly dependent on the serve but that would be wildly inaccurate. One of the weapons that has served Janowicz best is his drop shot.
Used regularly, and in positions that many would deem unorthodox, Janowicz doesn’t always get it right, but has executed it well regularly enough to make it a significant part of his game. Such is the sporadic deployment of the stroke, it will be some time before players will be able to telegraph it and in the meantime it will give the Pole a tactic that wins points on the court and is renowned for scoring heavily in the mind.
Janowicz’s fate will be largely decided on the draw, but with a decent ranking he can be expected to be favourite for at least his opening round. The monopoly of the Grand Slams by the very best on tour makes his outright price of 100/1 a realistic one, but his progress during the first week should be monitored closely.
His confidence and determination are key to any young player, but crucially he has a game plan that few will have practiced against, and a style that has been very successful down the timeline for those who have mastered it best.
A maiden Grand Slam final is beyond Janowicz at this stage but he could easily be forced into extending his accommodation in the city of love until the second week and should be backed accordingly.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.