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Sam’s Man Dan Never Stops Serving

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Sam Querrey© ATPSam Querrey inspects the gripping work of Dan the Intern.

Sam Querrey proves that there is always room for one more member of a player’s entourage.

There’s no formal training or college credit, but Dan Farrugia maintains that he has the best internship in the world. Serving in a pioneering role as intern to America’s World No. 23 Sam Querrey, Dan aggregates many of the roles that are typically the domain of agents and coaches, parlaying his concierge service into a full-time gig with one of tennis’ hottest rising stars. From gripping racquets before matches to handling ticket requests to scoping out flights (including an aborted private jet booking in Indianapolis), Dan has Sam’s back covered.

“Dan’s made my life much easier. I don’t really do anything [other than play tennis],” Querrey laughs. “Before he emailed me with the idea I’d never thought about having an intern, but it’s kind of a fun thing.”

Dan, 20, is a founding member of Querrey’s chest-painting cheer squad, ‘Samurai,’ which debuted in Los Angeles in 2006. Studying industrial and labour relations at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Dan first conceived the idea of working for Querrey when he began to consider applying for traditional internships in early 2009. “I want to be in sports and I didn’t want to be sitting behind a desk filing papers or getting coffee at an agency,” Dan says. “I proposed to Sam that if he’d cover my travel I could do whatever he wanted. He loved the idea and it ran from there. I can’t think of any internship better than this.”

Adding to the allure of the job, Dan will accompany Querrey on the late-season swings to Asia and Europe, and, although he was willing to work for expenses only, Dan is being paid a handy stipend of three per cent of Querrey’s prize money. Since the internship began at Newport in July, Querrey has won $235,000 (prior to New Haven), with Dan’s cut coming to around $7,000. By clinching the US Open Series at New Haven, Querrey would pocket $2.6 million if he became a surprise winner at the US Open, with Dan's cut of that weighing in at $78,000.

So what are the main responsibilities of a full-service tennis intern? Before the Los Angeles final, for instance, Dan handled the logistics of procuring and then distributing 110 tickets (comped by the tournament) to family and friends, who saw Querrey win his second ATP World Tour title. Before the Indianapolis final against Robby Ginepri, Dan had a private jet reservation on hold – secured by a credit card issued to him by Querrey – to fly his boss and members of the Samurai back to California. “After Sam lost he still wanted to charter the plane, but it would have been over half of his winnings; I told him not to,” Dan says. “So I had to get online to find flights, not just for Sam, but myself and the rest of the Samurai. And we wanted to leave within a couple of hours.”

Dan also doubles as press and fan secretary, helping Querrey craft responses to a flood of emails. "I'll throw out what I want to say... Dan [puts it together, and] makes me sound like a genius," Querrey says.

There are also some more mundane tasks, such as taking Querrey’s racquets to the stringer and applying fresh overgrips before each match. “I’d never gripped a racquet before I started the internship, so Sam sat me down and we wrapped it together. It came up about an inch short. It took me a little while to get used to it. Now I’m an expert. A lot of the American players call me ‘Dan The Intern’, and when they see Sam grab his own lunch they’ll have some fun and say to me, ‘Hey, isn’t that something an intern should do?’”

On the side, Dan still takes his Samurai responsibilities seriously. He works to ensure that new Samurai recruits are schooled in tennis etiquette and determine what message will be spelled out on the group’s collective chest. It’s not rocket science, but it requires some creativity when numbers can fluctuate from just a few to as many as the 14 who turned out in Los Angeles. Variations range from ‘Sam’, ‘Go Sam’,  ‘Samurai’, ‘Sammy’, or ‘Team Samurai’ (with extra exclamation points to accommodate large groups).

“In LA we couldn’t find more face or body paint, so we picked up some plain poster paint that stuck to the skin and burned a little. But it got the job done. You don’t have to shave your chest to be part of the Samurai; the hairy guys find that the paint can clump a little but you can still read the letters.”

Like many internships, Dan’s time with Querrey will likely end just as he’s fully trained and at his peak usefulness to his employer. Come January, Dan will return to college to complete the final semester of his degree, and ultimately apply to Law School. True to form, Dan is already helping Querrey plan for a possible successor, albeit with a somewhat different application process. “We’re thinking of pitching a reality show to Tennis Channel about the hunt for Sam’s next intern. So many people have told me that I have the best internship ever and ask me what it takes to be ‘Dan the Intern’. I’m sure if Sam wanted a new intern there would be a lot of candidates lining up.”

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