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Two Poland players advance to Wimbledon quarters
Jerzy Janowicz and Lukasz Kubot are the first Polish men since Wojtek Fibak in 1980 to qualify for a Grand Slam quarter-final.
London: On one of Poland's best days on the tennis court, one of Poland's best players gave a shout-out to none other than ... America's Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Hard to blame Jerzy Janowicz for that.
Truth is, apart from Wojtek Fibak, a wily doubles foe of John McEnroe's who made three Grand Slam singles quarter-finals in 1980, there aren't many luminaries to choose from on the list of Poland's greatest men's tennis stars.
"Yeah, it's unbelievable what's going on right now," Janowicz said after beating Jurgen Melzer of Austria 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 at Wimbledon on Monday to become Poland's first men's Grand Slam quarter-finalist since Fibek.
Janowicz's next opponent: That would be Lukasz Kubot, whose five-set win over Adrian Mannarino of France ended minutes after Janowicz's victory, thus making him Poland's second men's Grand Slam quarter-finalist in 33 years.
Kubot celebrated by walking to the far end of the service line, then doing his own version of the can-can, high-stepping it across the court before falling into the arms of his coach and friends in the stands.
"My [coaches] told me that every time I'm going to play on the big courts, the big tournaments, big events, I should do the can-can after a win," Kubot said. "So I've had no other chances and I had to do it."
Janowicz, the 22-year-old who said he grew up wanting to be like Sampras and Agassi, will meet Kubot on Wednesday and the winner will become Poland's first men's Grand Slam semi-finalist.
Keeping an eye on that one will be Agnieszka Radwanska, also from Poland, who won her own match, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 over Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, to move to the quarter-finals and cap a great day for her country. "They really have nothing to lose," Radwanska said. "For sure that will be a very good match."
When Serena Williams lost, fourth-seeded Radwanska became the highest-seeded player left in an upset-strewn women's draw. She was a finalist here last year, so seeing her this far along in the tournament isn't such a surprise.
The men are a different story.
Though Janowicz vaulted nearly 200 spots in the rankings when he made the finals at the 2012 Paris Masters - "I gave answer to this question about 58 times," he said when asked how that changed his life - this is only his fifth Grand Slam tournament. At 6-feet-8-inches, he's advancing with the help of a serve that has topped out at 140 mph, the fastest of the tournament so far.
Kubot, ranked 130th, hadn't been past the round of 16 in any tournament this year. But things are changing quickly. The 31-year-old Kubot said playing doubles, where he's enjoyed more consistent success, has put him on the court with a lot of the best players and prepared him for something like this. "So I didn't feel surprised," he said of the feelings of being in a big match.
Next up, a meeting with Janowicz, his Davis Cup team-mate who, back in 2006, was approached by the Qatari government, asking if he'd play for that oil-rich country. "I actually said, straightaway, 'No'," Janowicz said.
Turns out, playing for Poland has served him quite well. "You should go to Poland and see what's going to happen," Kubot said. "I think that tennis is getting very popular in Poland, and I'm happy and proud we can represent our country in these kinds of tournaments."
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