TORONTO—Novak Djokovic and Sam Querrey took the court for their Rogers Cup match trailed by ball boys carrrying the American flag for Querrey and the Serbian flag for Djokovic. Djokovic received a hearty cheer from the crowd that was happy just to see tennis after yesterday's entire schedule was washed out by rain.
The 24-year-old Querrey has improved a great deal since playing Challenger events last year. The American's big serve and twisting forehand tested Djokovic throughout the match. But defending champion Djokovic is a master at breaking down opponents, and he prevailed with a 6-4, 6-4, victory in a tight match.
Djokovic said before the match that Querrey had more rhythm on the hard courts as the tall American won Los Angeles and reached the Washington, DC semifinal last weekend. Querrey's power-based game presents a different challenge than Bernard Tomic, Djokovic's second-round foe. Tomic plays a delayed attack, tricky game while the Southern Californian is a quick-attack player with one of the best serve-forehand combinations in the game. One of Querrey's serves today sped into the box at 142 MPH. But Djokovic is not easily intimidated and he started making inroads stretching Querrey out wide to his forehand side. The world No. 35 likes to go big with his inside-out forehand so he's often camped into the backhand side of the court.
Neither man saw break point through 4-all in the first set; the match resembled a chess game where both combatants still had their queens and other dangerous pieces at their disposal. But Querrey blinked first, double-faulting to open the ninth game of the match, and then missing a backhand long, a forehand into the net and his best shot, an inside-out forehand, also into the net. Djokovic applied just a little more pressure, depth and spin and Querrey crumpled. Querrey reached deuce again when Djokovic served for the set at 5-4, but couldn't break and Djokovic closed in 37 minutes.
Djokovic, who tried to slow down the rapid-playing Querrey in the first set, jumped out of his seat well before the umpire called, "Time" to open the second. And he broke just as quickly with a deft backhand drop shot that Querrey shoveled into the net, a winning forehand volley and a backhand return at the American's feet as he uncharacteristically ambled up to the net. As big as Querrey's game is, he doesn't like to rush the net; Djokovic wisely yanked Querrey out of his comfort zone.
Querrey was suddenly in deep trouble, down a set and a break. Djokovic started opening up his shoulders and hitting amazing shots, once hitting the sidelines with two wicked heavy-topspin angle forehands (the umpire had to over rule the linesman's "out" call on the second and replay
the point). Still, Querrey hung in and when rain came at 4-3 with Djokovic serving, the game score was knotted at 30-30.
When play resumed two-and-a-half hours later, Querrey won the first point with a running passing shot forehand on the line. But Djokovic maintained his balance, edge and acuity. He made the first challenge of the match on the ensuing deuce point, after the umpire over ruled a ball called in on his serve, and the challenge was correct. At 5-3, Djokovic made the second challenge of the match, and again he was right.
Next up for the world No. 2, later tonight in the quarterfinals, is the winner of the Radek Stepanek-Tommy Haas match.