Time to Hit the Big Time: Sam Wants Slam Success
Sam Querrey has won titles on three different surfaces this season, which has helped put him at a career-high No. 21 in the world. But a sizable portion of that ranking—50.7 percent, to be exact—has come at the ATP’s lowest-level tournaments, the 250s. In four of those events (Queen’s Club, Belgrade, Houston and Los Angeles), he earned 900 points, nearly three times what he’s accumulated at the four Grand Slams and the Masters 1000s, which both offer significantly more points. Even if his Masters 1000 points from the past 12 months were lopped off, Querrey would still be in the Top 25.
But there comes a point when points from low-level events don’t do what they once did. That’s where Querrey stands now, just days after his win at Queen’s Club, a 250 event.
“I can win every 250 from here on out and my ranking won’t move,” Querrey said in a conference call to reporters Wednesday. “So it’s really just playing my best tennis in [the big] events, which I need to start doing.”
The hard-serving Californian, who didn’t get out of the first round at the Australian Open or Roland Garros this year, will get a chance to make good on that statement next week at Wimbledon. In three career appearances at the All England Club, Querrey has won just one match, though he pushed Marin Cilic to five sets in last year’s second round. Seeded No. 18 this time around, Querrey will avoid players of that caliber until the later rounds—presuming, of course, that he gets that far.
“I’d like to at least make the third round, but I don’t really like putting goals out there where you have to make a certain round,” Querrey said. “I would just rather go out there and do what I did last week in Queen’s. I don’t want to let negative energy show, I want to have a positive attitude and stay composed throughout the whole match. I want to give 100 percent on every point, whether it’s up 40-love or down love-40.”
Even a 50 percent effort at Wimbledon would likely be an improvement over Querrey’s showing at Roland Garros, where he was beaten in the first round by Robby Ginepri. Querrey admitted in his post-match press conference that he “just wanted to get off the court,” citing burnout from a relentless clay-court schedule. But Querrey seems to have put that behind him with his run at Queen’s and a little R&R back home.
“I just went home and for six or seven days, didn’t do anything tennis related,” Querrey said. “Didn’t hit a ball, didn’t work out, didn’t run, didn’t do anything—I just kind of cleared my mind and regrouped. Then I came back out here in a great mood and a great frame of mind for the grass.”
Querrey’s win at Queen’s Club—a tournament that included Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick—shows how he’s adapted to grass, tennis’ endangered surface. And although Querrey didn’t have to beat a player inside the Top 70 to win, his title was a vast improvement on his third-round exit in 2009.
“When I first started playing, I never thought I’d be able to win a match on [grass],” Querrey said. “It was so difficult to move [on] and so different than playing on a clay court or a hard court, but now I love playing on it. It’s great for my serve. I like hitting the ball big on my forehand side—you get more out of your shot. And I’m comfortable moving on it now.”
Just in time for Wimbledon—where a second-week showing could provide the rankings boost Querrey’s looking for—and, shortly afterwards, for Newport, another grass tournament he plans to play. It’s a 250 event, so it won’t help his ranking much (he’ll gain just 100 points if he wins it), but like a poker player stealing the blinds, he’s not going to pass up the opportunity.
“Hopefully I can pick up a couple more titles [after Wimbledon],” Querrey said. “And hopefully there could be some Masters Series [titles] in there, not just the 250s.”
Ed McGrogan is an assistant editor for TENNIS.com. Follow him on Twitter.