PARIS – Jerzy Janowicz of Poland became the first qualifier in eight years to reach the Paris Masters final after beating Gilles Simon of France 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday.
Playing in Futures tournaments at the start of the year, he's beaten five top-20 players on his improbable run — Philipp Kohlschreiber (19) Marin Cilic (15), Andy Murray (3) and Janko Tipsarevic (9).
"I cannot believe this actually. How is this possible?" Janowicz said. "I came here just to play qualifications, and suddenly after a few days I'm in the final. I don't know how did I this. But tomorrow the final is waiting for me. Wow."
In the first ATP final of his career on Sunday, he will meet either fourth-seeded David Ferrer or Michael Llodra of France.
"I played against a French guy today, and the French crowd was helping him a lot. They were clapping after my double faults, after missing the first serve," Janowicz said. "Somehow I was able to handle it. I hope tomorrow I will do the same."
Janowicz broke in the fifth game to take control of the first set and in the 11th of the second. He clinched victory on his second match point.
After hugging Simon at the net, the 69th-ranked 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 a final on 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. I had chicken skin (goose bumps)."
Janowicz won 88 percent of first-serve points and didn't face a single break point.
"I played against an opponent who is full of confidence and who you sense is playing freely, hitting the ball as hard as he can every time," Simon said. "His service game is really hard to get back. I think I'm among the best returners on the circuit each year, and I didn't get the slightest chance. It was going really fast, on every service game."
He wrapped up the first set in 37 minutes, then broke the 20th-ranked Simon for the second time with a drop shot — another useful weapon, along with his booming serve.
Janowicz is still struggling for sponsorship and missed the Australian Open this year because he didn't have enough money to travel. He had previously reached only one career quarterfinal, at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last month.
"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.
"I don't know if I can answer this question, but probably, yes," a smiling Janowicz said when asked if he had been contacted by Komorowski.
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 a Masters final on 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.