Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 2: Querrey Rides Hot Hand

Greetings friends and tennis fans,

Life after Wimbledon continues, and even as only 1 male top-10 player is in action this week (Nikolay Davydenko in Umag), there is still tennis to get excited about.

A friend asked me today over coffee the unanswerable question: "When does tennis season end?" And as I contemplated this rhetorical and slightly confounding question it made me think about just how lucky we are, as obsessed fans, that the answer to the question is "never." We are fans of a sport that has no beginning and no end, it is a circle whose point of origin is also it's point of departure. Well that's not exactly true. December is a pretty light month, but you get the point.

Even as most of the heavy hitters on tour are more focused on rejuvenating their ailing bodies from the effects of a long and grueling spring on the European clay and grass, the beginning of the U.S. Open hard court series has presented those eager enough to partake with an opportunity to build some momentum on the summer's surface of choice.

Sam Querrey, much to the delight of his hometown buddies aka Samurai's (some of which are pictured above), and the rest of America for that matter, is one of these eager players.
After thumping Tommy Haas in straight sets last night, the 21-year-old has secured a spot in his third consecutive final (before you get too excited realize he's lost the first two). Querrey, who in the process of three weeks, has ascended to a career high No. 32 in the ATP world rankings, will play an inspired Australian qualifier by the name of Carsten Ball.

After losses to Rajeev Ram in the Newport final, then Robby Ginepri in the Indy final, it was nice to see Sam play himself into a situation to take another shot at getting the monkey off his back. After his virgin ATP title in Las Vegas last year, Q-ball has lost his last three finals. A win today will not only get him another career high ranking tomorrow but will also give him a little taste of winning on Sunday - an experience that he'd no doubt like to savour for a little while and perhaps keep in the back of his mind when the big boys start showing up for tournaments again.

While some might argue that Querrey is having his success in minor tournaments against a field that is diluted, last nights win over an in-form Tommy Haas is anything but inconsequential. Haas had won 16 of his last 19 matches, dating back to May (all 3 losses to top-10 opponents), and he's also a two-time champion at the L.A. tennis open.

The fact that Querrey is in the finals again is one thing. The fact that he got there by outplaying the savvy veteran Haas in straight sets is entirely another. Add to that the fact that he overcame his nerves, closing the match out after being down 0-40 in the final game, and we've got a 21-year-old American who is not only learning on the job, but climbing the rankings as well.

Today's final against Carsten Ball, a player who Querrey claims to be about 5-5 against in their "10 or so" previous junior meetings, should go to Querrey. Ball may have been able to hang with Querrey in Juniors, but Sam has been growing into a man over the last year, he's ready to take another title now. Meanwhile Ball, the tricky lefty with a nasty serve, is just happy to be in his first ATP final.

This is the hump that Sam Querrey must get over. If he doesn't he heads into the meat of the hard court season on a down note. He'll be a good kid who can't win a final. That would be good, but not as good as the alternative.

Big matches, big points. The margins are razor thin when you start sniffing the rarefied air of ATP finals. Querrey has sniffed enough of this air to know that he can still breathe on Sunday, when all the camera lenses are focusing on just two players. Or has he?

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