Querrey Masterclass Carries American Hopes Into Quarters
If this was the best match of Sam Querrey's career, the rest of the US Open field better take notice. The 17th seed was at his ruthless best on Sunday night, turning in a masterclass performance under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Querrey sprinted past Mischa Zverev 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in just one hour and 16 minutes, blitzing his 30 year old opponent with a barrage of rifled groundstrokes and dizzying agility. It was the fastest match of the tournament thus far. He struck 55 winners, including 18 aces, and just eight unforced errors.
With the win, Querrey will become the No. 1 American in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time since July 2013. He is the first player from the U.S. to reach the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows since both Andy Roddick and John Isner did so in 2011.
"I really couldn't have done anything better out there tonight, I was in the zone," Querrey told ESPN in his on-court interview. "It was my first time playing out here at night, so I wanted to make the most of it.
"I was a little nervous at first, but I came out playing hot. Tennis is a game of momentum and once I broke early, I felt like I was off to the races. I felt comfortable three minutes into the match and that was the key."
As the last American man remaining, Querrey embraced the home atmosphere in his first Ashe night session appearance. Zverev's net attacking gameplan was effective in defeating John Isner on Friday, but the California native had an answer for the German with nearly every approach, passing him early and often. His execution of forehand passes was simply stunning.
Querrey's sharp movement stifled Zverev at the net throughout the encounter and a 24-minute first set would set the tone. The American struck 20 winners and just five unforced errors in the opener, breaking for 2-0 with a backhand pass and refusing to look back from there. Another break would secure the first set and he would drop just three games from there, breaking four more times to cross the finish line after 76 minutes.
"Mischa is someone who can make you feel uncomfortable," said Querrey. "[But I] had a good service game right off the bat. I think I broke first game of his serve, when he served. That just loosened me up right away. Felt great from there going forward.
"I went out there with the game plan of getting the return down and then try to pass, hopefully on the first ball, but if it took two passing shots, go with that. The more comfortable I got with the return, the more I started trying to hit the return further and further away from him to make tough volleys. I just got comfortable pretty quickly and started doing that.
"That was the best I've served all summer. My serve honestly has been the one thing I feel like I struggled with all summer. My serving percentage has been pretty low. It felt great out there. Something clicked. So I hope it feels like that on Tuesday."
Querrey will next face Kevin Anderson with a coveted semi-final spot on the line. He owns an 8-6 edge in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, having split a pair of meetings this year. Querrey prevailed in a five-set thriller in the Wimbledon fourth round, before Anderson exacted revenge at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Montreal.
Looking ahead to the battle with Anderson, Querrey said, "He's tough. Got a big game. 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. You have to weather the storm against him, know he's going to have some brilliant shots.
"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, but we'll see."