Time for Querrey to Make His Move
“Those are the three guys that kind of when I was 17, 18 they would invite me to their house and practice,” explained Querrey, referring to the three players ahead of him in the rankings, Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and James Blake, who together own 9-1 mark against their younger compatriot. “I mean, you don't feel bad if you beat them. You want to beat them. But at the same time, you're showing them a lot of respect out there because they've kind of showed you the way and they've been role models. They've given know me so much advice out there. You almost feel bad beating them.”
Querrey’s emotional discord when playing his compatriots is evident in his results: He’s a combined 1-9 vs. Roddick (0-3), Fish (0-1) and Blake (1-5). He can go a long way towards severing the national umbilical cord in Wednesday’s evening match against fifth-ranked Roddick, who took him out in the round of 16 at Washington, D.C., 7-6, 6-4, two weeks ago. It could be the most important contest of Querrey’s summer, which has seen the towering talent play at a consistently high level but continue to underperform in big events.
Querrey is no longer the gee-shucks kid who once went on court with a hole in his shoe. Now 21 and ranked in the top 30, Querrey says that he’s earned enough respect of his own the last three years to put feelings for his American peers aside. “It’s getting better,” he said. “It's just tough playing them. They're your friends, guys you watched growing up. You got to get over this little hump.”
Querrey has put together a fine summer at some of the tour’s smaller events, winning Los Angeles and reaching the final at Newport, R.I., and Indianapolis. He is second in the U.S. Open Series points race. A string of wins, even against lesser competition, is not to be discounted, and can propel a player forward, much as it did No. 6 Juan Martin Del Potro last summer when the Argentine won four consecutive tournaments leading into New York. “I've got a lot of confidence just after those three (events),” said the 26th-ranked Californian. “Look at Del Potro last year here….Hopefully, I could do something like that.”
But Querrey has yet to score a major breakthrough at a Slam or Masters, including a disappointing first-round exit at Montreal last week to 45th-ranked Philip Petzschner – a result Querrey said “sucked it up.” And though he has beaten decent pros such as No. 22 Tommy Haas and No. 30 Dudi Sela this summer, he also counts losses to No. 181 Rajeev Ram and No. 95 Robby Ginepri. His sole win over a top-10 player in 2009 came against Gilles Simon, who he bested at the lightly regarded World Team Championship round robin at Dusseldorf.
Querrey reached a career-best fourth round at the U.S. Open last year but followed with first-round exits at the Australian Open and Roland Garros this season. He reached the third round at Wimbledon, and knows he’s still searching for a serious run when the world is watching. “I want to start doing a little better in the bigger events,” he said. “That's how you're gonna get your ranking up. That's it.”
The 6-6 right-hander will never be known for his wheels, but he has the tools to reach the top 15, and perhaps even go higher. His serve is a major weapon – he is seventh on the men’s tour in service games won at 86% -- his fitness has improved, and hard work on his return-of-serve is paying off. “I'm returning much better I think than I was a year ago,” he said. “I'm fitter and making better decisions on the court.”
Blake, who has beaten Querrey twice this year and bowed out in three sets to Igor Kunitsyn here Tuesday, said the goofy, laid-back surfer in tennis attire is poised to make a move. “Sam is playing a lot better,” said the 24th-ranked Blake. “I think we've all kind of seen how good he is. Whether it's in practice or matches, he's got such a big serve that he can be dangerous to anyone….I love his attitude and his confidence.”
With a 34-20 record through Monday, Querrey says his goal is to get another 25 matches under his belt and finish in the top 20. Barring a disaster in New Haven next week, Querrey should arrive at the U.S. Open as a seed for the first time at a Slam.
Against Wimbledon runner-up Roddick, Querrey will have to serve huge, pick his spots to attack and manage his game smartly. The crowd will be behind Roddick, the 2003 and 2006 champion here. “I'm sure it's gonna be another close one,” said Querrey. “He's playing well. I'm playing well. Just gonna have to adjust a couple things to get him this time.”
Beating Roddick would go a long way in establishing Querrey as the No. 2 American both in ranking and bragging rights. But he still sounds a little conflicted about his fellow Yanks. “I want to do the best I can, but I don't want them to drop,” he said. “I want all of us to keep going up. At the same, I want to be the highest, too.”