SAM QUERREY – ‘LIVING THE WIMBLEDON DREAM’

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Photo by Roland Harrison/Action Plus vis Getty Images

BILL SIMONS

WIMBLEDON—

We Americans, we’re rude. We’re rowdy. We’re rebels. And, worst of all, we don’t know our place in life.

Well, that’s how the Brits see us – crude Americans – such rabble, such raucous upstarts! Around these parts, proper British lords and ladies fancy looking down on us uppity Yankees. After all, we don’t treat our mother – merry ole England – very well.

We kicked the Redcoats’ butt in 1776. We open Shakespearean theaters and think we’re masters of the English language. We took the Beatles as our own.

But, of late, in tennis, Britannia has ruled the Anglo-American waves. Not only did Britain recently win the Davis Cup, Murray’s ranked No. 1 and he’s the two-time Wimbledon and Olympic champion. Plus, ladies and gentlemen, there is an English lady named Konta who’s into the semis.

No wonder the British tabloids were hyping a coming tennis coronation. For the first time in 50 years, Britain was to have both a guy and a gal into the semis. Just about the only ones blocking Jo Konta and Murray from their routes to the finals of their home Slam were a couple of Americans reared in Southern California – a timeless 37-year old veteran named Venus, whom everyone knows, and Sam Querrey, who’s a star in Thousand Oaks.

Unfortunately, most would have said Querrey was about a 1000:1 shot to rain on the British reign. After all, this is Wimbledon, where Lord Murray is worshipped, where he’s won a pair of titles and Olympic gold. Plus, an American hadn’t reached a Slam semi since Texan Andy Roddick did it eight long years ago. Sam’s record in Grand Slams is just over .500 and he had never reached a Slam semi. His appearance in last year’s quarterfinal was his best-ever Slam performance. Yes, he knows how to bring down big players. Last year at Wimbledon he whipped then No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic. Earlier this year, he downed Rafa Nadal and donned a huge sombrero to celebrate his tournament victory in Acapulco, Mexico. En route to the Wimbledon quarters, Querrey won five-setters against the No. 10 seed Jo-Willie Tsonga and big-hitting Kevin Anderson.

But let’s get real. Sam had only beaten Murray once in eight meetings (and that was five years ago when Murray was exhausted). Plus, one other thing. Murray gives no credence to the fact that he is a homeowner in Florida, that he won his first tournament in Northern California, and his first Slam win was in New York. So what? He makes a habit of chewing up Americans. He’d beaten Yanks 25 straight times and certainly he’d eat Querrey for lunch.

Nervous and error-prone, Querrey lost the first seven points of the match and the first set, 6-3. But the 29-year old Querrey is a “been-there, done-that” vet. He stiffened, fought hard and moved with surprising ease for a 6’6″ power baller, winning the second set, 6-4. “He’s so improved his backhand and his return,” said the USTA’s Player Development chief Martin Blackman. “And he’s become a much tougher competitor.” But in the third-set tiebreak he botched the simplest of overheads – how humbling. And Murray won the shoot-out 7-4 to go up by two sets to one – how frustrating. Certainly he would wrap things up en route to waving the Union Jack in triumph.

All the while, Querrey’s girlfriend Abby reported that the toughest thing for her watching her man’s demise was “not to get nauseous.” But guess what – Querrey’s game got very healthy in a hurry and soon it was clear Murray’s body was very unhealthy. Big Sam relaxed and hit out fierce and free. He retrieved Murray’s drop shots with Federerian ease and, of course, he served lights out. Sam Querrey in full flight is a considerable force.

Andy Murray reduced and compromised is a sad sight. The hip, whose fallibility he was hiding, was clearly acting up. Movement long has been Andy’s strong suit. But today Murray was hobbled. He had no explosion. Usually he hunts down shots (can we say) like a relentless hound. But today there were times he didn’t even try. This was a violation of everything the man stands for. “He’s using his racket as if it were a walking stick,” suggested Radio Wimbledon. “We’ve never seen him move like this.”

One British observer insisted,”No one is going to beat Sam Querrey on one leg.” If this tennis encounter were a boxing match, someone would have thrown in the towel. Querrey easily collected 12 of the last 13 games to win his third straight five-set match 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(4) 6-1, 6-1 and reach his first-ever Grand Slam semifinal, where Friday he will face 2014 US Open champ Marin Cilic, who he has never beaten in four attempts. And many recall that in 2015 Sam lost an epic battle to the 6’6″ Cilic – 17-15 in the fifth in what is the second-longest match in Wimbledon history.

Of course, Querrey-watching has long been a delight for American tennis nerds. After all, this is the man who is nearly as famous for being on the reality TV show “The Millionaire Matchmaker” as he is for all the realities of his tennis career. Querrey once said, “I think I’m really good for being No. 65 in the world.” Then there was the time when he was asked whether he had been in touch with his parents after a big win. He admitted, “I wanted to call them, but I just dropped my cell phone in the toilet.”

Okay, Querrey became the player with the lowest ATP ranking to ever be ranked No. 1 in the US. But more to the point, his Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier noted that the Santa Monican “can bulldoze any player if he is playing well.”

And, in fact, Querrey told Inside Tennis, “I feel that I’m playing well. I’m confident and I’m just going to play aggressive and hit big. I’m living the Wimbledon dream.”

Sam Querrey is not a complex man. His tennis strategy is simple: When the ball is there to be hit, hit it. Reporters wondered whether he thought he might reach the semis. But Sam said, “Honestly, I probably didn’t write that in.” When asked to describe himself, the humble, soft-spoken giant said, “I’m ranked 28 and [am] a pretty good grass-court player. That’s about it.”

Well, not really. There’s one other thing. In a few days he just might be the Wimbledon champion. Not bad for an American who’s acting up, despite being No. 28 in the world.

Also reporting: Lucia Hoffman

Photo by Roland Harrison/Action Plus via Getty Images

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