Winston-Salem Open: Jerzy Janowicz Wins, Controversy Follows

Live tennis is the absolute best, and don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. But, particularly during the first few days of tournaments, it’s also a bit of a crapshoot.

There are so many matches going on at once, even at a small tournament like the Winston-Salem Open, that more often than not you circle a match as a must-see, arrange your day around it, and then it turns out to be a dud. At least, that’s what happens to me 99% of the time.

Today, however, I chose correctly.

Jerzy Janowicz was one of the players at this year’s Winston-Salem Open that I had marked as a must-see. I’d never seen him play live, and the notion of seeing him on a small side-court in Winston was incredibly enticing. Plus, as a writer, I wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on with him. This time last year Jerzy was at a career-high ranking of No. 14. Now, he’s ranked No. 52, and honestly it’s surprising he’s even ranked that high.

I mean, you guys, he’s been very bad lately. Janowicz hasn’t won three matches in a row since making the semifinals of Wimbledon last year. His losses have come to guys like No. 247 Maximo Gonzalez, No. 135 Pierre-Hugues Herbert, and No. 147 Michael Llodra. Ouch.

Whatever happened to the big-serving and charismatic talent that Juan Jose had waxed so poetically about back when we first started this site? Is he gone forever or just temporarily in hiding?

There were signs of life in Cincy when he upset Grigor Dimitrov in the second round, but then he lost meekly to Julien Benneteau in the third round, as you do. So I had no clue what to expect.

Brimming with anticipation, I was courtside for the first set and a half of his first-round match against Carlos Berlocq on Monday. It was, well, not very notable, but it was very loud. (Thanks, Charly!)

In all seriousness, the most noteworthy part about the match was how much everyone adored Jerzy. The small crowd was 99% on his side, hanging on his each and every shot. There were even signs!

The Pole’s shots are so big and powerful when on–and so jaw-droppingly stupid when they’re not–that it’s hard to take your eyes off of him when he’s playing. He’s theatrical and unpredictable, and it’s all rather enthralling.

He won the match fairly easily, 6-1, 6-4, and headed straight to press in the ATP mixed zone.

I was excited to get a chance to talk him, but it turned out to be a very brief interview. He’s one of those insanely frustrating people to talk to because he knows that he has all of the power in the conversation and he somehow manages to be hysterical and engaging while really saying nothing at all. Plus, he’s tall and lanky, and his body kind-of curves and hovers over you like a street lamp. It’s all a bit much.

Anyways, I’ll stop saying things that make no sense because you can just see the whole thing here because embarrassingly enough, it was filmed:

After that incredibly enlightening interview, this tweet exchange happened:

I laughed it off at first, but then I couldn’t really stop thinking about it. I mean, Janowicz certainly has made headlines for his outbursts and his controversial opinions before.

However, can we just dismiss him as a divalicious jerk, or is there something more to the talented-but-erratic 23-year-old?

Today I decided to continue my research. I made it in time to see the third set of his match against Joao Sousa from Portugal. (Sousa is the No. 6-seed in this tournament, which sounds strange.)

Let’s just say that I got more than I bargained for. I walked into the match when Sousa was serving for a double break in the third set. As I waited outside, Jerzy survived a foot-fault call and break points and held for 2*-1. The crowd was wildly behind him.

For most of the third set, the guys continued to trade breaks, and it was an entertaining and maddening-in-a-fun-way affair.

But I’ll go ahead and fast-forward to the part that I know you want to hear. (I’ve now buried the lede so far down here that you’re basically just trapped forever.)

Sousa, who is super fast and hits the ball flat like a pancake, ended up serving for the match at 5-4 in the third. He faced a break point, and after a mid-range rally, Jerzy once again hit an idiotic drop shot and stood back at the baseline just watching it.

However, since history repeats itself, speedy Sousa got to the ball and hit it over the net. An out-of-position Jerzy threw his racket out, and the ball very clearly tipped his racket and ended up landing out, behind the baseline on Jerzy’s side.

Joao breathed a sigh of relief and went back to the baseline ready to serve at deuce, when the umpire Pierre Bacchi called out, “5-all.”

Everyone, including the crowd, was STUNNED. Sousa immediately started arguing with Bacchi that Jerzy’s racket had touched the ball, and the entire crowd was shouting in support of him.

Sousa asked Jerzy point blank if his racket had touched the ball, and Jerzy did not deny it. But the umpire wouldn’t change the score. Sousa was yelling at Jerzy, telling him that if he was in his shoes, he would concede the point. Jerzy kept telling Sousa, “This isn’t about you,” and telling Bacchi that he was “ruining the game.” He implied in his arguments that he felt like this was a make-up call, that the umpire had called against him earlier in the match and this was just how it was.

At one point, Bacchi had to get down from his chair and get in between the two, which really didn’t help anything, because nobody was a fan of his.

Eventually, somehow, the match moved on. The crowd, who had been fully behind Jerzy, was absolutely dumbfounded, and ended up clearly on Sousa’s side.

Both guys were clearly rattled after the long exchange. Jerzy DFed a lot in the next game but ended up holding. During the ensuing changeover with Jerzy up 6-5, he tried to go over to Sousa’s chair to talk to him, but Sousa pushed Jerzy’s hand off of his shoulder and screamed, “No, I don’t want to hear it.”

Sousa ended up heroically holding to force a third-set tiebreaker. After a lot of misses from both guys, Jerzy finally came away with the win, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(5).

I talked with Jerzy afterwards, and this interview was slightly more in depth than the last. Though he told me he did not ever consider conceding the point, he also did not deny that his racket had hit touched the ball:

“Actually, I don’t know how to explain this, because Joao just asked me if I touched the ball, I said I did, now it’s the decision of the umpire.”

“So it’s a huge mistake from the chair umpire, he gave me the point. Because I didn’t lie, I didn’t say I didn’t touch the ball, I said I touched the ball.”

“The decision belongs to the umpire.”

“I just wanted to explain the situation. We had the same kind of problem in the second set, it was 15-30, I was 3-2 up I think, he served huge DF. I stopped, I played the return down-the-line, the ball bounces exactly on the line, and the umpire didn’t see twice the ball. Sousa even stopped because he was sure it’s out, he didn’t give me the point. It was the same situation.”

(Note that I wasn’t there in the second set, so I can’t confirm or deny what he said in the above quote. Sorry.)

“I was just pissed at the umpire. I was just so pissed about the umpire because he made so many huge mistakes.”

“I’m not happy after this win, because I hate when umpires make huge mistakes, and today this was beyond anything for me. I feel sorry for Joao also, because I think it shouldn’t have happened. From my side I understand Joao completely, 100%, but I didn’t understand the decision of the umpire. I didn’t lie, Joao asked me and I said the truth. So now the decision belongs to the umpire.”

So…what does all of this mean, you ask?

Hah, like I know.

Some will think that Janowicz is noble for admitting the truth, others will be infuriated that he didn’t concede the point. Some will continue to find him an arrogant jerk, while many will be forever charmed by his every move.

I also don’t know if he will go on to win the tournament and make it to the second week at the U.S. Open, or whether he will be double bageled by Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

Two matches and two interviews with Janowicz later, and I’m officially more confused about him than I was when this tournament began. But this much is certain–I’ll be courtside at his matches every chance I get.

Lindsay is an author, a filmmaker, a long-winded blogger, and a huge tennis fan.

10 Responses

  1. q10
    q10 August 19, 2014 at 8:43 pm |

    JJ is difficult to watch live when he is not in form
    Nice article Lindsay, maybe he can pull it together to finally win 3 matches in a row, but not holding my hopes up (same for Querrey, who seems to not be able to string together multiple wins)

  2. Josh
    Josh August 19, 2014 at 9:56 pm |

    Just a note, it’s spelled Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Anyway, I enjoyed this artcile, keep up the good work!

  3. Alek
    Alek August 20, 2014 at 3:06 am |

    First – I always enjoy reading your site. Second – You saw Janowicz vs Berlocq, Janowicz vs Sousa. Janowicz plays flat, plays fast and some times close to the lines. Whole his career (ITFs mostly) umpires were making poor decisions against him. I saw more then few of his futures/challenger level matches – it has always been like this; fortunately, they were on clay so you could check the spot where ball landed. That’s one of the main reasons why Janowicz is behaving “like a jerk” (You could say the second one is that he is a jerk, a little), he argues. And for last – Pierre’s Bacchi (he was an umpire in what? 10 times RG, 3 times USO, at Wimbledon and AO, has a lot of experience) judgements seemed so poor a whole game (I follow this only via internet transmissions, I know it’s a bad angle to see). I understand why Janowicz didn’t want to concede a key point – in he’s view it was the same as this DF he has spoken. He didn’t lie about touching the ball, he is maybe a jerk but he is not dishonest.

  4. qza
    qza August 20, 2014 at 5:23 am |

    It strikes me that people expect too much of these post match interviews,i mean what revealing things u can hear of player if there was not much drama in match??not reason to suggest player is moron straight away especially english not his first match interviews are pointless most of time,at least he cut to point
    About the call… how many players you see admitting ball was in/out against them compared to how many of those is in single match??? Why this situation is all of sudden different? Surely u cant expect player forfeit point here and not during line least he admitted it happened and was up for umpire to call it right. Jerzy is kind of player wjo is likely to concede point more likely than most if he feels is fair. Here he didn’t and had his own least he is sincere about whole thing and didnt try to hide just had own view.. morally he stands right here imo.thanks

  5. Cynthia Tanner
    Cynthia Tanner August 20, 2014 at 2:37 pm |

    Great post. Thank you for all of the color and details.

    Janowicz has added himself to the Raonic (Montreal 2013) and Djokovic (Miami 2014) “the umpire gave me the point; it’s his fault” cheaters’ club.

    Tennis is supposed to have an honor code under which players called themselves for double bounces, reaching across the net, touching the net, and touching the ball with either racquet or person. Here’s hoping that “win by any means necessary” does not become the norm.

  6. Scott
    Scott August 20, 2014 at 11:28 pm |

    I’m so glad someone wrote something about this incident, as it was nowhere to be found in the local media coverage. I, too, was looking forward to seeing Janowicz on an intimate court and was not disappointed. It should be noted that the umpire was horrible. This was one of about a half-dozen bad calls that he could have easily overruled and saved the players a lot of stress and strain.

  7. qza
    qza August 21, 2014 at 4:59 pm |


    why the honour code wouldnt extend outside of these unusual situations u mentioned to the most common ones as disputed missed/in call, which happens multiple numbers of time during every match? basically it does extend as most tennis matches played on this planet are without any sort of umpiring :))

    and that was janowicz view over this point if u watched it closely.obviously his judgement was based on his own reflection about the match, but his point was reasoned on fact that this match is judged by umpire, not honour code after as it happened Sousa himself didnt called some crucial points correctly (against himself), which were misjudged by umpire previously to the unfortunate situation we discuss.why janowicz should all of sudden start to following honour code book after yet another unfair call? moreover janowicz clearly stated to umpire his fault,just didnt feel it will be justified over course of match to concede it .

    think is players are grown on calling the match on their own in early amateur stages,fact that pro level of tennis is judged by undisputed umpire call, make them to deal with those situations they have in blood to sort out within themselves,in different manner,it is ridiculous to players be allowed forfeit points etc(and leave the gate for argument when they dont etc)

    it doesnt mater if umpire call was right or not in this situation.there were plenty more calls in match which could be matter of of player judgement (where player had best viewing to define call right way) , if they were under scrutiny of close judgement as janowicz was in this freak incident.umpire call should remain undisputed as it just cause much more chaos while umpire is introduced to reduce it. janowicz action just pointed out whole situation,why he supposed to be deduct points on himself while sousa didnt do it on other dodgy calls both sousa and janowicz knew are wrong?
    janowicz have big point here about his action to be addressed with imo,he clearly felt is fair over course of the match that umpire mistake can go his way this time, while no one disputing other situations including sousa himself.
    big problem is that there is hawk eye at some courts(tournaments) and other havent.for players who used in recent period to play main tourneys with hawk eye ,bad calls can be really disturbing while they have adjust back to “bashing umpire period” of lesser tourneys

  8. jjz
    jjz August 22, 2014 at 6:08 am |

    I am a chinese reader and I can hardly realize you opinions well.Can you tell me your attutide to JJ is postive or negative?

  9. Laurent dumas
    Laurent dumas August 24, 2014 at 1:32 pm |

    Hi guys,

    Just a little point about rules because Janowicz try to be the good guy but he is not. The umpire did a mistake it is a fact, but the rule is clear he cannot change his decision on a player’s appeal unless the other player give the point back. On this case Janowicz admited he touch the ball but didnt give the point to Souza. It is the umpire’s mistake but his decision to keep the point. He is not a good guy but a cheater.

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