Much of the talk throughout the first week of the U.S. Open was about the wide open bottom half of the men’s singles draw, as the absence of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, coupled with fifth-seed Marin Cilic’s early loss, created a void of stars in Flushing Meadows.
That created an opportunity for the players remaining, and American Sam Querrey (pictured left) is just one of that bunch capitalizing on it. On Sunday, Querrey became the first man from the United States to reach the final eight in Flushing Meadows since Andy Roddick did so six years ago, dispatching Germany's Mischa Zverev, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.
“Not at all,” Querrey said Sunday night on whether he feels any added pressure. “I never once thought about that this whole tournament or that match out there tonight. I don’t feel any extra pressure.”
That mindset has resulted in Querrey coming into his own as a player over the last couple of seasons. The 29-year-old defeated defending champion Djokovic at Wimbledon this year, and followed it up with a semifinal run there earlier this season.
Now, into the quarterfinals in Queens, the San Francisco native has a legitimate shot at winning the whole tournament. He played his first match under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday night and completely dismantled Zverev, who had easily defeated Querrey’s compatriot, John Isner, in his previous match, in straight sets.
“I felt good out there from the beginning,” Querrey said. “I felt like even when I was warming up, the ball was coming off clean. I felt like I was going to play well before the first point started.
I had a great time out there. I felt comfortable. I hope I play out there again on Tuesday.”
Up next for Querrey is a showdown with South African Kevin Anderson (pictured right), the 23rd seed who has a game similar to that of Querrey’s. The American is 8-6 all-time against the big South African.
“I’ve played him more than, I think, any guy on tour,” he said of the match. “He’s another one that is tough to play. He doesn’t give you much rhythm. He can go games where he’s serving huge, you don’t get a ball in play. He takes big cuts from start to finish. If he’s on and he is dialed in, he’s one of the toughest guys to play out there.
But I feel like when my game’s on, I have a dangerous game as well. Hopefully it will be a match where each guy might have a small opportunity here and there. We’ll see.”
That quiet confidence is a product of Querrey adding more elements to his game. He has always had the big serve and huge forehand, but his ability to move and return well have been the key to Querrey’s recent success. So far throughout this year’s U.S. Open, he has broken 22 times through his first four matches, while dropping only six of his own service games. Querrey has lost only one set, and played his best tennis of the tournament in his 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of Zverev Sunday night.
Querrey is the last American man remaining in the draw and, although he won’t admit it, that carries with it pressure. Roddick is the last man from the United States to lift a Grand Slam trophy, and it came at the U.S. Open 14 years ago. This may be the best chance for that streak to be snapped, and Querrey is just three wins away from completing the feat.
But for now, he is focused on the next match ahead of him.
“It’s a long way from that,” he said of winning tournament. “There are some matches before that. Like I said earlier, Kevin Anderson is a tough player. He’s playing well. He’s kind of rolled through four matches here. I’m going to worry about that and just do the best I can.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.