With players like Stan Wawrinka and Kevin Anderson making Grand Slam breakthroughs in the later stages of their careers, a number of their peers on the ATP World Tour have adopted the “why not me?” mind-set as they enter a major.
Sam Querrey can definitely be counted among them, as the American’s play at Wimbledon the past two seasons has boosted his confidence and ranking. It’s made an impact on the course of the men’s game, as well.
Entering Wimbledon 2016, Novak Djokovic was at the height of his powers. The undisputed world No. 1 was coming off his fourth Grand Slam title in a row at the French Open, and the two-time defending Wimbledon champion was poised to make a serious run at the calendar-year Grand Slam. He was stopped by the unseeded Querrey in the third round. The world No. 41 followed that up with a win over grass-court specialist Nicolas Mahut to become the first American to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in nearly five years.
Querrey was unable to build upon that impressive run, though, and his less-than-stellar form carried over into the early part of 2017. His momentum spiked when he reached the hard courts of the ATP 500-level event in Acapulco. There, he defeated four members of the Top 20, including Rafael Nadal, en route to the best tournament-winning run of his career.
WATCH—Sam Querrey, dancing away at his wedding:
Querrey struggled in the next two Masters events on hard courts, in Indian Wells and Miami, and through the clay-court season. Once again, though, the grass courts proved a welcome sight as he reached the quarterfinals in Queen’s Club, a 500-level tournament he won back in 2010.
Hardly anyone expected what was to come at Wimbledon.
Faced with the pressure of defending his quarterfinal points from the prior year and coming off an opening-round loss in Eastbourne, the No. 28 seed advanced to his first career Grand Slam semifinal, winning three five-setters in a row over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Anderson and defending champion and world No. 1 Andy Murray, before Marin Cilic stopped his run.
After Wimbledon, Querrey’s hard-court season got off to a perfect start as he won his second title of the year in Mexico. He then went on to reach the quarterfinals at the US Open, becoming the first American male to do so since Andy Roddick and John Isner in 2011. Anderson stopped him there, on his way to the final.
A couple of weeks after that tournament, Querrey reached a career-high ranking of No. 11. Currently at No. 13, he hasn’t been able to make that push into the Top 10 yet this year, with the New York Open in Long Island the site of his only final-round appearance. And before he reached the quarterfinals at Queen’s Club last week (where he lost to Cilic), the last time he reached the final eight at a tournament was in Indian Wells.
Still, his London run is an encouraging sign for his prospects at Wimbledon, where it’s been difficult for the bulk of the field to make a charge at the title. Six players reached the quarterfinals in both 2016 and ’17: Murray, Cilic, Raonic, Federer, Tomas Berdych—and Querrey.
Among all those players, Querrey is only one that hasn’t reached a Wimbledon final. Could this be his year? He’s worked his way onto the short list of contenders based on his play at the All England Club the past two seasons. The grass suits the Californian’s power game perfectly, and as others have made their own marks at the majors past the age of 30, he meets all the criteria for a run to a maiden Slam.
The “why-not-me” approach has served Querrey well in the past, and could do so again in 2018.
A LANDMARK DOCUMENTARY DURING THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS EVENT IN SPORTS, CELEBRATING THE UNPARALLELED FEDERER-NADAL RIVALRY AND 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE GREATEST MATCH EVER PLAYED.
In association with All England Lawn & Tennis Club, Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment and Amblin Television. Directed by Andrew Douglas.