LUKASZ Kubot’s football manager dad will be absent for the biggest moment of his son’s tennis life today.
The 31-year-old’s mother, Dorota, could be at courtside to cheer on the world number 130, but having been appointed as boss of Polish second division team KS Polkowice only last week, Janusz Kubot believes he should stay at home and focus on his job rather than jump on a flight. He said: “I won’t go to London. My responsibilities with the club have stopped me, but perhaps my wife will go. Lukasz’s wife is baking him a cake.”
No doubt the cake will go down well. A cherry on the top would be victory for Kubot in the first all-Polish Wimbledon quarter-final.
Poland has not had a men’s semi-finalist in any grand slam in the open era, and Kubot and 24th seed Jerzy Janowicz are the country’s first quarter-finalists since Wojciech Fibak, who reached the last eight at Wimbledon in 1980. They are vying for the possible right to face Andy Murray in the semi-finals, and Poland has been gripped by the unlikely Wimbledon success of its Davis Cup stars.
Yesterday the Polish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Witold Sobkow, sent his congratulations. He said: “This is an unprecedented wave of successes in Polish tennis. Last year I was very excited to see Agnieszka Radwanska fighting in the ladies’ final. This year I am blown away at the success of Polish tennis players and I’m sure Jerzy Janowicz and Lukasz Kubot have the entire country’s support and will make us very proud.”
Janusz Kubot is not likely to miss a second of his son’s match, only he will have to watch it from home, where he witnessed the nail-biting five-set win over Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round. “It was a great experience,” Kubot’s father told Polish radio. Even if he were to lose today, Kubot would return home to Lubin with £205,000. The winner will be guaranteed no less than £400,000.
Janowicz, Kubot and Radwanska, who reached the women’s semi-finals today, are walking proof at Wimbledon that it need not cost a king’s ransom to produce grand slam stars.
While the Lawn Tennis Association ponders how best to spend its £60million annual budget and who to appoint as its successor to £640,000-a-year chief executive Roger Draper, the Polish Tennis Federation scraped by on just £990,000 last year. Janowicz reputedly had to skip last year’s Australian Open qualifying competition because he could not cover the cost of flying to the other side of the world, but having to fight for a living has made him tougher. His success since, notably a run to the Paris Masters final last autumn, and the performance of Kubot and Radwanska has changed the perception of tennis in their home country.
“I think it’s a big moment for Polish tennis to have two players in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon,” Kubot said. “Whatever happens, one of us will be in the semi, which means we’ve already made history for Polish tennis.”
He and Janowicz are close friends, and Kubot, who performs a ‘can-can’ dance after each of his victories, said: “Jerzy is a very strong character. He’s the same as he is on court. He’s strong mentally. He just wants to win everything. Whatever he does, he just wants to win.”
Kubot has already achieved a lifetime’s ambition by reaching the quarter-finals, as it earns him a place in Wimbledon’s ‘Last Eight Club’. He can come back at any point in the future and enjoy not only free entry to the championships, but hospitality, show-court seats and the company of players from all down the years. “My dream was always to get in the ‘Last Eight Club’,” Kubot said. “I could try to get in by having strong performances in men’s doubles or mixed, but it wouldn’t be the same.”