ATP Tennis 360

August 25, 2009 7:16 PM

I Am Sam

Profile of Sam Querrey, the 2009 Us Open Series winner

When he turned professional in 2006, Sam Querrey certainly didn't believe that in three years he would have been capable of winning the Us Open Series, entering in the top-30 and starting the last seasonal Grand Slam tournament as a seeded player. But all theese dreams made real. The laid-back Californian guy, talented as a junior player but not enough skilled to be defined as "The Next", as Americans too often label promising youngsters, finishing sometimes to ruin their future, as with Donald Young, is extremely improved during the last year.

The 6-6's serve remains his preferred weapon (with 86% of service games won) but his backhand is better and his more aggressive returns are opening him new opportunities. Speed will surely never be his atout, but even his stamina and movement on the court are gaining efficacity. "I'm smarter on the court now and making better decision", said Querrey after his resounding victory over Andy Roddick at the Cincinnati Masters 1000. A particular meaningful success for Sam, who always suffered playing against guy whom he's grown and practised with: Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and James Blake. In fact, he was 1-9 in the h2hs before beating the Nebraska-born Wimbledon finalist.

"He's gotten a lot faster," Roddick said after that match. "He's moving a lot better. He's not playing himself out of points quite as much. He's got a better sense of when to pull the trigger and when to stay in points"

Also Patrick McEnroe his aware of his tactical qualities. Prior to the 2008 semifinal with Spain, when Querrey debuted in Davis Cup as a substitute for James Blake losing to Rafa Nadal, the team captain was used him as a practice partner from 2005. “He understands how to play,” the Davis Cup captain said then. “There is a difference between knowing how to hit a ball and knowing how to play tennis. He knows how to play tennis”.

Nowe he hopes to repeat the astonishing Juan Martin Del Potro's winning streak that revealed to the world the value of the Argentinian. But Querrey hasn't decent results at Grand Slam level, his best being the fourth round finish in Flushing Meadows last year, without counting the quarterfinals in the 2005 junior tournaments at the Us Open and the Roland Garros.

Far from being the same dreamer who once entered on court with a gaping hole in his sneaker, Querrey maintain an entertained and relaxed mood that accomunates him with another American big server, John Isner. Since his decision to play professionally, Querrey is followed throughout the world by a group of his former Thousand Oaks High School mates, who noisily cheered during the Us Open last year. It was easy to identify themselves because they had Samurai written on his chest. Samurai is also Querrey's nickname, and the reference to Japanese guards hide an interesting and curious link with the Californian guy: translating from Japanese into English, in fact, it means "to serve", that's the principal Querrey's specialty.

Besides, his consistency in groundstrokes make him an atypical American player, not so necessarily offensive and not so reluctant to play on the clay. Last year, in fact, he became a factor at the Montecarlo masters, defeating the top-10s Carlos Moya and Richard Gasquet and resulting the first "stars and striped" player to reach the quarterfinals in five years there.

Querrey received also the stigmate of real player by Andre Agassi after a period of practice with him, but never lost his image of simple and nice guy. He lived in Thousand Oaks, with his parents and his younger sister, Helen, and maintained a storied 1974 Volkswagen van. His grandfather, Jacque Cohen traveled to Europe with his grandmother, Nelda, to get a Bug in 1969 and each of his parents had one of it before married. The first car they bought as a couple was a VW Rabbit convertible in 1984. was his grandfather Ed to buy Sam the 1974 van, when he was old enough to gain his driving licence; Sam wanted it painted in Electric Blue with a white roof. The van has a peculiarity: The odometer has been forever stuck on 61,000 miles.

Probably less than the ones necessary to Sam Querrey to arrive being a big tennis player and build credibility. Us Open could be his rendez-vous with the Fate, the possible turning-point for an ascendant career. The beginning of a beautiful friendship with the rarefied air to breathe in the top positions.

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