At the start of the year, Jerzy Janowicz couldn't afford to travel to the Australian Open. Now he's in line for a major payday, with only David Ferrer standing in the way of his first career title.
Janowicz beat Gilles Simon 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday to become the first qualifier in eight years to reach the Paris Masters final. Ferrer, the only seed in the semifinals at No. 4, outlasted Michael Llodra 7-5, 6-3.
Ferrer is seeking his tour-best seventh title of the year, which would give him one more than Roger Federer. But the Spaniard is facing a player with nothing to lose.
"It's going to be a very difficult match because my opponent is playing very, very good," Ferrer said. "It's very important for me and for my career."
The 69th-ranked Janowicz, who was playing in Futures tournaments at the start of the year, defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber (ranked 19), Marin Cilic (15), Andy Murray (3) and Janko Tipsarevic (9) before topping the 20th-ranked Simon to extend his surprising run in the high-profile tournament.
Ten months ago, the 21-year-old Janowicz didn't have enough money and sponsorship to even get to Melbourne.
"I was a little bit angry because I had ranking to go to play qualifications of Australian Open, Grand Slam, one of the most important tournaments in tennis," Janowicz said.
"But this gave me some kind of extra motivation. I just said to myself, 'Next year I will try to avoid that kind of situation.'"
Money is unlikely to be a problem for a while. The winner of Sunday's match collects almost $615,000 while the lose takes home a little more than $300,000.
The superstitious Janowicz has taken the unusual step of telling his parents to stay away.
"I told them it's better not to change the winning style," Janowicz said. "Before (this) match I'm taking painkillers, so tomorrow I will do the same. I'm using an old bag which is completely broken and dirty, so for sure I will use this bag tomorrow. And for sure my parents will watch my match from TV."
After hugging Simon at the net, Janowicz let out a scream and dropped to the floor with his head in his hands after becoming the first player in 12 years to reach the final in his Masters debut.
"I didn't know what I was supposed to think, and I had a thousand different kind of feelings," Janowicz said. "When I had match point today I felt a little bit strange."
Janowicz, who had previously reached only one career quarterfinal, in Moscow last month, is already a star back home in Poland.
"The street next to my house actually is completely blocked. There is like about nine or 10 cars, TVs. There is no way to get to my house right now," he said. "So I think after this final I have a chance to find some really good sponsors and I will not have to worry about the money."
Poland President Bronislaw Komorowski is also a new admirer. Asked if he had been contacted by Komorowski, a smiling Janowicz said, "I don't know if I can answer this question, but probably, yes."
Janowicz is expected to break into the top 30 next week after beginning the year ranked 221st.
Jarkko Nieminen of Finland is the only qualifier to win a tournament this year, in Sydney in January.
The last player to reach the final in his Masters debut was Harel Levy of Israel in 2000. He lost to Marat Safin in Toronto. Safin also beat qualifier Radek Stepanek in the Paris Masters final in 2004.
Ferrer, meanwhile, saved 10 break points in the first set — seven of those in his first two service games.
Llodra had not lost his serve before in the tournament, but was broken three times by Ferrer — the first time in the 12th game.
Looking to become the first player outside the top 100 to reach a Masters final since Andrei Pavel here in 2003, Llodra started to tire late in the first set. He dumped a poor volley into the net to put himself set point down and Ferrer clinched it with a backhand pass down the line.
"I played a very high level of tennis in the first set, it was very frustrating," Llodra said.
Ferrer broke Llodra again with a passing shot and held for 3-0 lead in the second set. During the changeover, Llodra grimaced as a trainer rubbed his lower back for several minutes. Ferrer, who lost his previous three Masters finals, sealed the win when he returned Llodra's drop shot with a cross-court winner.