July 24, 2009

Summer of Sam

I first remember hearing Sam Querrey's name about two years ago when he forehanded his way into the top one hundred his first year as a pro.

Given his fast and consistent start, it's easy to forget that he's still really a kid. He was only nineteen when he made the semis at Indianapolis in 2007, beating big-serving Ivo Karlovic and countryman James Blake, both in three-set battles. He followed it up with a quarterfinal appearance in Cincinnati and a second place trophy in a challenger event in Vancouver.

He's had an up-and-down time since then, but never really fell out of good graces. He won his first and only championship -- so far -- in Las Vegas last March and reached the fourth round at the U.S. Open. But he's also notched a bunch of losses to much lower-ranked players like #137 Bjorn Phau and #194 Joseph Sirianni.

Even still, now just twenty-one years old, he's probably a much better player than his #37 ranking gives him credit for. A few weeks ago I got to watch him in the Newport semifinals, where he took on Fabrice Santoro on the grass courts of the Hall of Fame. I was impressed by his serve, of course -- at 6'6" he fired an amazing eighty aces during the tournament -- but also his finesse as he worked the court with long baseline rallies and delicate drop shots. Though he eventually lost in the finals to qualifier Rajeev Ram, he seemed to be making a statement.

And Querrey's going to be playing a lot of tennis this season in order to make that statement.

Today he sailed through the quarters in Indianapolis with a decisive win over France's Marc Gicquel. Though the scoreboard indicated a fairly close game -- 6-4, 7-5 -- Sam was dominant. He won 88% of his first serve points and only allowed two break opportunities, saving both of those points. In about ninety minutes, he score nineteen aces and easily earned his place in the semis, where he'll meet Canadian Frank Dancevic.

Even if his ride ends there, though -- which I hope it won't -- he won't have much time to rest. He's the eighth seed in Los Angeles next week and continues his summer-long road trip with showing in Washington, Cincinnati and New Haven, all before the end of August!

Luckily for Sam, it doesn't seem like he'll be alone. Like Mardy Fish's Fish Bowl and the J-Block before them, Querrey seems to have his own set of groupies -- his "Samurais" flew to Indianapolis from Santa Barbara and have been front-and-center during his matches all week.

If he continues the success he's had so far this season, it looks like they'll have a lot more to cheer for!

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