How Sam Querrey Is Carrying His Momentum Into The US Open
Unless you’re a diehard tennis fan, chances are that you hadn’t been paying attention to six-foot-six, shaggy-haired, power server Sam Querrey before he stopped Novak Djokovic from winning his third Wimbledon last July. Ranked 41st in the world at the time he defeated Djokovic, Querrey has been on the pro circuit since 2006, but hasn’t met the expectations of the American tennis community since his career high in 2009-2011. His wins against Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and Gilles Simon in that period shot him up to a career-high ranking of No. 17 in 2011. An elbow injury later that year put his career in limbo for the next three years as he attempted to get back to his previous heights.
But after his Wimbledon display, defeating not only Djokovic, but carrying that momentum into a quarterfinal spot (the first time an American had gotten that far since Roddick and John Isner in 2011), Querrey is firmly back in the mainstream. And just in time for the US Open in New York, where the home crowd has been searching in vain for a top American seed to rally behind.
We caught up with Querrey ahead of the tournament in Queens next week to chat Djokovic, mental toughness and maintaining momentum.
THE RED BULLETIN: What was going through your head during your match against Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon this year?
SAM QUERREY: It was over two days and we had four rain delays. When we went back to the house after the first day no one talked about the match. I assumed Novak was going to come back the next day fired up and ready to go. When he went up 4-0 right away, in my head I was thinking, “Yesterday was fun, but he’s probably going to win now.” But then we had another rain delay and I regrouped, talked with my coach and I got back into it. It was incredible. The ten days after were fun and maybe a couple more people recognize me on the street now, but it’s pretty much back to normal.
How do you keep focused when curveballs like rain delays come up?
I don’t overthink things in my life. I don’t stress out. I’m keeping the thoughts pretty simple on the sideline. I keep reminding myself how fun it is out there. Win or lose, it’s pretty incredible.
Has that state of mind contributed to your success?
You make it sound like I’m really mentally together. I’m not. [Laughs]. For the most part, I’m calm on the court and that’s helped me, but also hurt me. Sports are intense. I probably could be more focused and intense and fired up, but that’s not my personality.
Do you feel Wimbledon was your big break?
For tennis fans, they know who I am and I’ve had good results for 8 years. I’ve been Top 20 a handful of times. But for general sports fans who only really watch Grand Slams, I feel like for them I was the new guy who came on and beat Novak. I just hope there are more moments like that.
How do you keep the momentum after a huge success?
You just have to keep winning. That’s the only way. Hopefully at the US Open I can put together quarters and take it one match at a time. US Open is where your career is made or missed. My coach, Craig Boynton, is great about always sitting down with me and going over the big picture. He’s very good at getting it through my head that we aren’t worried about results right now. It’s about the process of getting better and improving. I hope for the next four or five years I can continue to improve my tennis. Whether I win or lose matches, I just want to improve.
There’s been a lot of talk this year about doping in tennis, especially with Maria Sharapova. How prevalent is doping in your sport?
I’m not sure. The guys that I hang out with, I’m assuming no one does anything but you never know. It’s such an individual sport and everyone keeps to themselves. I get drug tested randomly 15 times a year. As much as we get tested it would be very difficult for guys to cheat. I don’t know how you get around that. When I turned pro in 2006 I got tested the first week. With gambling, that’s happening at the Challengers level where guys are being paid to lose.
We’ve discussed how you ride the wave of success. How do you deal with defeat?
Before every match, my coach tells me, “Win or lose, tomorrow is going to be a great day for you.” And he’s right. I look at it like that. My life is awesome. I get to go around and play tennis and visit fun places. I have great friends, a great girlfriend and at the end of the day it’s just a tennis match. I’ll play 25 tournaments a year and if you lose at Wimbledon, there’s another tournament the next week. You have a fresh start every week. You can’t let a loss linger and stay with you. It’s just a loss.
How much do you take advantage of new sport technology and innovation?
Zero. I remember when I took my recruiting trip to USC and they were trying to sell me on the video taping on the court. It made me not want to go there. I rarely watch matches of myself. As far as breaking down the science of tennis, I’ve never been into it. I’m more into, if it feels good lets go for it.
I’m sure you’ve read a bunch of articles about yourself. What’s something no one has ever said about you that you wish was written into your legacy?
I had a lot of people at Wimbledon be like, “Is this the start of your career now?” But I’ve had a good 8 titles and I’m going to hit 300 match wins pretty soon. So I hope this one win doesn’t define my career. I hope they say, “Hey look what he’s done for 10 years. He’s put together a solid career.”