Thursday, October 1, 2009

Momentum: The Long and Short of It

Greetings tennis aficionados,

It was a nice summer for Sam Querrey. The lanky power-server from California stepped it up a notch and started to realize some of that limitlessness that we all have been seeing in him since he started plying his trade on the ATP tour.

Consecutive finals in Newport and Indy, albeit before much of the top-20 had removed the ice packs from their aching bodies and finally booked a flight to the states for the Masters events, set the table for Querrey's 2nd career ATP title in L.A. Samarai-aided wins over Tommy Haas and Carsten Ball opened some eyes, as did a straight set win over Andy Roddick in Cincy, in which a wildly entertaining tie-breaker in the first set ended with Querrey winning 13-11.

Yes, it was a very good summer for Querrey. No one was confusing the 6'6" Southern Californian with another, slightly more successful 6'6" player from Argentina, but still, at a career-high ranking of #22, this years Olympus U.S. Open Series Champion had a lot to feel good about.

Querrey was a tennis player who had harnessed the great M-word, and used it to help his cause throughout the summer. At the ripe age of 21, Querrey (much like that other 6'6" guy, again) was proving that he could get on a roll and stay on a roll. As all tennis players know, getting on a roll is one thing, but staying on it, well, that is entirely another. This is true within the framework of a single match, within the framework of a tournament, a summer, and even over the course of a career.

With Querrey's 4-set loss to Robin Soderling at the U.S. Open, the momentum of his summer, sadly, was halted. It wasn't an overly disappointing loss (most of us expected it, and we know that Soderling is on his own little momentum-trip as well), but there was a growing sense of hope that Querrey was in a position to use the momentum that he had built up over the course of the summer to vault him into the next tier. It did not happen, and in it's aftermath a new challenge has presented itself to Sam.

Momentum, much like the waves of the mighty Pacific are to the world's best surfers, is a tremendously powerful tool in tennis. In other words, the kind of wave that Querrey was riding was the kind of wave that could have taken him further than he went. The monstrous kid from Tandil, for example, never stopped shredding on his proverbial surfboard over the course of the summer. Not only that, Del Potro seemed to sense the fact that he was on a magical ride. It was like he knew that the powers of nature were favoring him, and he was confident that he would be rewarded by taking greater risk.

I guess what I am getting at here is that there are small slivers of golden light that emerge over the course of a gifted players career. It's up to each player to sense the energy and capitalize on it. Querrey had the wind at his back all summer, he was playing on his home turf, on his favorite surface, in addition to playing the best tennis of his life. All that was missing was a little magic. Or maybe a lot. There are players, like Del Potro, who find a way to play the best tennis of their lives at the exact moment that it is necessary. I wanted Querrey to be that player at this years U.S. Open. I wanted him to break through in grand fashion. The time was ripe.

Fast forward one month and another concept is back in play: How to regain momentum when you've lost it. Let's be realistic, everybody has their own time line. Querrey's summer, while very good, was a ride that ended too soon. But maybe his progression is destined to be a longer, gentler ride that will build over the course of a year or more or maybe even more than that.

I'd like to believe that Querrey will put it all together in time, but after the freak accident in Thailand, it is clear that Querrey will have to find a new wave to ride. He is currently paddling around on a calm lake with one good arm, and there is no wind in the forecast, for at least four to six weeks.

While I know it's a blow of hard luck for Querrey (it could have happened to anybody, right?), there is a part of me that believes that we all have control of our own destiny. Accidents happen, but they happen more often to those who are unprepared, unfocused, and unaware. It's a fact of life, like momentum, and the giant waves of the mighty Pacific.

Time waits for no one, hopefully Sam Querrey isn't expecting it to wait for him.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! Fortunately, Sam's injury wasn't as bad as it could have been, and he's still young enough to carve out his tennis destiny. Comebacks are all the rage these days, so he can at least ride that wave.


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