The Secret To Querrey Serving Up A Turnaround In 2019
This time last year, Sam Querrey was playing arguably the best tennis of his career. In the New York Open final, the American had a chance to not just lift his 11th ATP Tour title, but crack the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time. But Querrey lost to eventual Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Kevin Anderson in a final-set tie-break.
It was part of a theme for Querrey in 2018. The 6’6” right-hander lost 22 matches last season, and eight of them came in final-set tie-breaks. Seven of those eight defeats came in the Round of 16 or earlier in a tournament, meaning that he lost out on several opportunities for big runs.
“It makes a huge difference. Not that you’re going to win every one of those, but if all of a sudden I go 50-50 on those, that’s four more matches won, that’s 100-something more ATP Ranking points and you never know what’s on the other side of those,” Querrey said. “You can continue on with more wins, so it’s tough to swallow those. I think I was pretty passive in a lot of those matches, and that’s something that I really want to focus on in those matches this year if I get to those positions again.”
Querrey owns 20 victories against Top 10 opponents, so he has proven his ability to perform under pressure. But those triumphs have come when he has swung freely and let go of any apprehension in his game, competing ‘light’. That’s something he is trying to improve in 2019.
“Sometimes it’s easier said than done. But that’s definitely going to be my theme this year, and I’m not just doing it in those pressure situations late in a match,” Querrey said. “I’m trying to do it from point one, that way, when those situations come, it’s not like, ‘Oh, now all of a sudden I’m going to try to hit the ball big.’ If you start from the first point and do those things it won’t be awkward or jarring later in a match.”
Craig Boynton, Querrey's coach, said: “In a nutshell, it’s commitment without hesitation and letting whatever happens, let it be. Let it be. If you hit a winner, if you miss by a little, if you miss by a lot, understand the situation. Understand what you’re trying to ultimately accomplish, commit, and move onto the next.
“For Sam that is the recipe for being light and creating momentum.”
Querrey fell to No. 57 last October, eight months on from being on the doorstep of the Top 10. It’s not the first time the 31-year-old has faced adversity. A moment that sticks out came in 2009, when Querrey fell through a glass coffee table in a freak accident and missed three months after undergoing emergency surgery in Bangkok to control bleeding in his arm. In a way, overcoming that was easier for Querrey than his winless streak in deciding-set tie-breaks last season, and less frustrating.
But, just as he put that accident behind him, he's ready to do the same to his passive attitude in 2018.
“I feel like if I would have played more aggressively or whatever I would’ve done to win those matches, it could have changed my year a little bit ,” Querrey said. “Losing 7-6 in the third, I feel like you can tweak a couple things and really change the tide.”
“I know what I’m capable of because I’ve done these things before, I’ve beaten those top players. It is frustrating at times when my [ATP] Ranking dips or when I lose to people. You’re going to take bad losses every now and then, but it happens probably a little too much for me,” Querrey said. “But at the same time, at any given point I feel like I can run through a tournament, play well and have those big runs, so I try to look at it that way more than the other way.”
Querrey is yet to play a final-set tie-break this season, and he is 2-2 in tie-breaks overall. But he’s not worrying about what happened in 2018.
“I’m going to try to not forget about last year, but learn from it,” Querrey said. “If I do lose those matches, I want to lose them more on my terms and I think if I do that, it’ll be a little bit easier to swallow and I’ll be able to move forward in an easier way.”