Sam Querrey made a winning start to his Delray Beach Open campaign on Thursday night, scoring a 6-3, 6-4 first-round win—his first win as a father—over fellow American Mackenzie McDonald. It was also Querrey's first match since the ATP announced they were putting him on probation for the first six months of 2021 after a breach of COVID-19 protocol at the St. Petersburg Open last October.
In what was both players’ first match of the 2021 season, Querrey got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. McDonald got the break back, evening the first set up at 3-all, but that’s when Querrey lifted his game, winning six of the next seven games to build a 6-3, 3-1 lead, and the two players held from there until it was over. Querrey served it out in style, too, ripping three winners to go up 6-3, 5-4, 40-0—a backhand, a volley and a forehand passing shot—and he closed it out two points later.
“I was a little nervous to begin with—he could’ve been, too. I haven’t played a lot of matches in a while. This is the first match I’ve won in almost a year,” Querrey said. “But I played the big points and break points well, made a lot of first serves on those points, and overall I’m happy with how I played.”
Breaking McDonald again in the eighth game of the first set turned out to be key for Querrey.
“I got off to a quick start, but even though I was up 3-0, I was still nervous, and my palms were still sweating. I was still a little uneasy, and I gave the break back. Fortunately I played a good return game with him serving at 3-4 and got another break, and I played a solid game to serve out the set.”
The one-hour, 10-minute victory was Querrey’s first win since reaching the third round of last year's Australian Open—he went 0-4 in 2020 after the restart in August—and so it’s also the 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist’s first victory since his son, Ford Austin, was born on February 19, 2020.
“This is my first win as a dad, which is kinda nice,” he said. “He was born in February last year, and normally I would’ve missed a lot of the first part of his life, but essentially I got to be home every day. Not many tennis players who are fathers get to do that. That was something special I was able to do.”
Awaiting the No. 6-seeded Querrey in the second round will be another first-time meeting, this time against No. 101-ranked Italian Gianluca Mager, who beat Ryan Harrison earlier in the day, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
“I don’t know him, but all these guys are good out here. My coach watched that match a little bit, so I’ll discuss it with him,” Querrey said. “It’s tricky playing a guy you’ve never seen before. Sometimes it takes a few games or even a set to get used to his ball, how he serves or returns, things like that.”
Two more Americans, Tommy Paul and Sebastian Korda, were also among the winners on Thursday.
This week's Delray Beach Open is Querrey’s first tournament since the ATP put the American on probation for the first six months of the 2021 season following an incident at the St. Petersburg Open last October, when he left Russia with his wife and eight-month-old son after testing positive for COVID-19. He was given a suspended fine of $20,000, which will be lifted if he doesn’t violate any more health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 within the probationary six-month period.