Racquet Reaction

Rome: Janowicz d. Tsonga

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 /by
AP Photo
AP Photo

This was the first time that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jerzy Janowicz had played, and their match-up promised a lot. A lot of power, court coverage, big serves, drop shots, and decisions that can only be described in that politest of criticisms: “ill-advised.” The tall Frenchman and the even taller Pole play a brand of tennis that seems to point to the future, even as it remains frustratingly imperfect in the present. 

We got what we expected from their games, but the result, a 6-4, 7-6 (5) win for the lower-ranked Janowicz, was a surprise. Jerzy was focused and hitting the ball cleanly from the start. At 0-1 in the first, he held with an ace. At 1-1, he controlled the rallies with his forehand to reach deuce, before blowing that point with a missed drop—as predicted, it didn’t take Janowicz long to go from brilliant to questionable. At 2-2, though, he capitalized on his good play. On the only break point of the match for either player, Janowicz hit a bullet forehand behind Tsonga for a winner. The set, essentially, was his. At 5-4, he made four first serves, and held at love with an ace.

Tsonga woke up in the second set, and the result was some highly athletic all-court tennis. Drops, lobs, overheads, reflex retrievals, passes, and volleys—they used the whole court and every shot they owned, good and bad. But the key remained Janowicz’s serve. It was his get-out-of-jail card on numerous 30-30 and deuce points. The best of those service saves came at 5-6. At 40-30, Janowicz hit a drop shot into the net to make it deuce, and then missed his first serve; suddenly, Tsonga seemed to have a chance to break. But Janowicz jammed him with the second ball, and Jo put his return in the net.

The subsequent tiebreaker was well-played at both ends, as the two traded volley winners and passes. It looked for a millisecond as if the set would be Tsonga’s. Up 5-4, he had a mid-court forehand that he struck confidently. It might have gone for a winner, if it hadn’t caught the tape and bounced long instead. From there Janowicz ended the match in the same high-quality manner he had started it, with a volley winner and a forehand pass at match point.

How good was this win? Jersey-ripping good, in Janowicz’s opinion. By the time he shook Tsonga’s hand at the net, he had a foot-long tear in his shirt. Hopefully he has another for his third-round match, which will be against Richard Gasquet.

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