One of the pleasures of Wimbledon is being able to see, up close, the stars of the future, without the need to beg, buy or steal a Centre Court ticket.
Eight years ago Novak Djokovic made his Wimbledon debut out in the boondocks on Court 19 while Roger Federer's first appearance was on court six, where a single row of benches line either side of the court.
The unticketed cognoscenti headed for court 12 where the Polish No.1, Jerzy Janowicz, was taking on Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic. Just 18 months ago Janowicz skipped the Australian Open as he could not afford to attend a tournament he would have to qualify for, but he is now a Grand Slam seed.
His rise to 22 in the world follows victories over players of the calibre of Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Richard Gasquet and Marin Cilic.
Up close, barely five feet from the tramlines, you could feel the speed of Janowicz's 130mph first serve, see the kick of his slower serve, and hear Stepanek feet pound the turf as he sought to reach a drop shot. This close, close enough to see the crease on his shorts were so sharp they were either fresh from the packet or the hotel laundry, the 6ft 8in Janowicz's formidable size was obvious.
In the first round he bludgeoned aside British teenager Kyle Edmund – who noted Janowicz had become more powerful since moving up from the juniors - in the first round. Yesterday he started equally imperiously against Stepanek winning an early break to take a 4-2 first set lead. The Czech then needed an extensive time-out for treatment on what appeared a thigh or knee injury only to drop his service upon resuming and losing the first set 6-2.
Janowicz, who mixes up the power play with plenty of drop volleys, played at his own pace, frequently calling for the towel while Stepanek waited to serve. This was most apparent in the seventh game of the second set when he broke serve. Janowicz subsequently held to take a 6-2, 5-3 lead at which point Stepanek, who continually flexed his ailing limb, called it quits.
The Court 12 crowd were disappointed but, maybe in a couple of years' time, when the Pole is on Centre Court, they will be able to say in that superior way, 'of course I saw him on the outside courts, before he made it big.”Reuse content