The day Jerzy Janowicz lost it
MELBOURNE, Australia -- It wasn't quite on the level of Marcos Baghdatis' racket-wrecking demolition derby at last year's Australian Open, but lanky Polish phenom Jerzy Janowicz became the early leader on the tantrum board in his second-round match Wednesday.
With glaring sun turning Court 8 into a convection oven, the 24th-seeded Janowicz and India's Somdev Devvarman grappled through a first set that extended into a tiebreaker and lasted 79 minutes. On set point at 9-8, Janowicz watched from well behind the baseline as a Devvarman forehand landed just long -- or so he thought. When he didn't hear the call, Janowicz made an emphatic one himself.
"How many times?'' he bellowed repeatedly, dropping his racket and falling to his knees on the court -- a maneuver made somewhat more theatrical by his 6-foot-8 frame. He continued to berate the chair umpire even after receiving a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. Rattled, Janowicz lost the tiebreaker 12-10 and the next set 6-3. But he composed himself and allowed Devvarman only one game over the next two sets, prevailing 7-5 in a tight fifth.
ESPN analyst Darren Cahill said Janowicz did well to shed the emotional hangover of his blowup and said he's inclined to forgive the 22-year-old for the outburst.
"I cut him a lot of slack because of what he's gone through to get to this point,'' Cahill said of Janowicz, who couldn't afford to travel to Melbourne last year and had to give up his slot in the qualifying tournament. But the agile athlete's toiling paid off last season, culminating when he reached the final of the Paris Masters tournament as a qualifier, defeating five top-20 players and confirming his considerable potential.
"He's 22, but really in a way he's more like 18; he's just broken through,'' Cahill said. "He's going to make some mistakes. What's important is how you react to it.''
Janowicz freely owned up to his bad behavior in his postmatch news conference, insisting the ball "was clean out. I was already happy. I was already shouting, 'C'mon.' But the referees didn't say anything. This was the moment when I went nuts. Otherwise, the rest of the match I was pretty calm.
"Sometimes I have problem to control my emotions, but I'm trying to work on this. & I was all the time trying to be focused. I was all the time telling myself to fight for every single ball. And somehow I just relaxed. I have no explanation why.''
Janowicz helped his cause by not being defensive with reporters, said Cahill, who added there's no doubt in his mind that Janowicz is destined to be a top ATP player.
"I love the way he plays -- it's big-guy tennis," said Cahill, who praised Janowicz's versatility and shot-making fearlessness. "I watched all of his matches in Paris and he handled himself there really well, carving new territory for himself. I hope he has a good team around him -- it looks like he does.''
Wednesday night session headliners Venus Williams and Novak Djokovic had little trouble polishing off their opponents. Williams had a hiccup or two against France's No. 41 Alize Cornet, dropping her first service game and trading breaks with the emotional Cornet in the second set, but won 6-3, 6-3 to set up a glittery third-round tilt with second seed Maria Sharapova.
The Russian hasn't dropped a single game in her first two matches, but Williams wouldn't take the bait when she was asked if she'd have to lift her intensity level to something more suited to a later round.
"I don't think about things that way,'' said Williams, the 25th seed. "I play the ball. There's going to be days when you play great and win, and there's going to be days when you play not as great and you win. Whatever day that is, you have to win. It's not about for me I have to play perfect every match. I don't have that mentality.''
Three-time Aussie champ Djokovic overwhelmed 20-year-old American Ryan Harrison with vintage shot-making and movement in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
An admiring Harrison was taking mental notes even as he tried to stay in the points.
"My focus and my goal is to get to where I can play near the baseline, like he does,'' said Harrison, who has not been able to snag a set from Djokovic in three matches over the past two years. "He's going to be an extremely good person for me to emulate as far as how I want to play my baseline points, because he stands on the baseline and he doesn't give any ground.''
The big-serving, mobile 17-year-old American dispatched 30th seed Tamira Paszek of Austria 6-2, 6-1 on Wednesday to follow up her more challenging opener against Aussie favorite daughter Casey Dellacqua. Next up: fifth seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, who holds the distinction of being the last player to beat Serena Williams (August 2012, in the Cincinnati quarterfinals).
"First round here was a little bit nerve-wracking,'' said the Illinois-born Keys, who started playing tennis at age 4 because she coveted a dress, then fell in love with the game over the trappings. "But I think today it was much better just having that one match under my belt. You know, I was playing an Australian, big court, crowd was against me, but I felt like today I just played tennis.''
Keys' ease prompted high praise from three-time Grand Slam event champion Lindsay Davenport, who's in Melbourne working as a Tennis Channel analyst. "Regardless on how this tourney plays out, incredible potential,'' Davenport posted on her Twitter feed. "Best hope I've seen for US since Williams'''
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