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Ten years ago, on 12 August 2013, Jerzy Janowicz reached the highest point of his tennis career. World ranked number 13, just a few weeks after reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon, lost to Andy Murray after winning the first set. Jerzy, a 203 cm striker, played his last tennis match last September, in his “home” Challenger in Szczecin, but he’s ready to live the adventure of the European Games in Krakow: again with a racket in his hand, but a padel one.

The Krakow Main Square, set up for the big event, is ready to host Europe’s strongest players, and Janowicz too – after battling with many injuries – wants to compete, trying to do like another tennis champion – Italian Roberta Vinci – who has started a second career in padel. In Poland, padel is growing, so much so that another tennis champion, Agnieszka Radwanska, has taken up the ‘pala’ and, like her, famous former football players such as Tomasz Kłos or Marcin Żewłakow, both of whom are ranked nationally. But Janowicz is one of the players to follow with the greatest curiosity.

Injuries, especially those to his repeatedly operated knees, have penalised him – his last full season, Jerzy played it in 2017 – but his CV speaks for itself: in addition to the Wimbledon semi-final, in 2013 he also reached the third round at the Australian Open and at the Roland Garros. “This is my rebirth, after so many injuries,” says Jerzy. “Padel is very different from tennis and the earnings are also different (laughs, ed.), but with padel I can play, have fun, chase goals without being afraid for my body. Padel at this moment in my life is very important and fun to play, it is the complete opposite of how tennis has been for me in recent years. I came to hate it because of the many physical problems I had and for the last six years the thing I felt most on the tennis court was the pain, I was destroyed mentally and physically. Now, with padel, you see that, don’t you? I am smiling again”. 

It was a shock: “I’m happy, but I’m used to certain pressures in team competitions, having played so many Davis Cup matches. But here we play padel: new sport, new challenges, new results to chase”. On social media, Janowicz has had his picture taken on the court with the glass, and earlier this year he also won a tournament in Tychy, paired with compatriot Marcin Maszczyk, who is also among those called up for the European Games. “It was some friends who brought me among the glass,” he explains. “I played a few matches in 2016 after an injury, but then I tried to get back into tennis. And it was last November when I did some training with Spanish professional padel players in Alicante, and I’ll be back there in a couple of weeks to work hard with them. I have a lot of strokes that I carry with me from tennis and the only way to change my skin is training”. Janowicz will play men’s doubles and mixed doubles: two metres of power and talent to drag Poland to a medal.