The match took two days because of multiple rain delays, but Sam Querrey, as he typically does, kept his cool.
In one of the biggest recent upsets in tennis history, the American, ranked 41st in the world, improbably knocked off No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the third round at Wimbledon on Saturday.
Admittedly, Querrey didn’t go into the match with high hopes.
“You know, I’m not going to lie and say going into it I thought I was going to win,” Querrey said after triumphing in four sets, the first and last of which went to tiebreaks.
“But I think as the match progressed, I was serving well and holding in the first set, we were kind of going back and forth, I gained a little more confidence with every game.
“We got to that tiebreaker, and I played a great tiebreaker. Once I won that, I was like in my head, ‘All right, I can beat this guy, I can hang with him and turn this into a match.'”
Just how seismic was this upset? They were both born in 1987, but their careers could not be more different.
Djokovic, who has won 12 grand slams (and likely counting), was not only the two-time defending champion, but he also was holding all four tennis majors at once. No man had done that since 1969. It’s the first time Djokovic has lost at a grand slam tournament since the 2015 French Open final.
Quite simply, the Serbian had been all but invincible on the court before losing to the Californian.
“I’m not going to lie,” Querrey said. “After the Novak match, I watched every highlight I could over and over. Enjoyed the hell out of that moment.”
But he wasn’t done. After defeating Djokovic, Querrey then took out Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 to advance to his first major quarterfinal. Unbelievably, Querrey — seeded 28th for this tournament — is a win away from being the first American man in years to reach the singles semifinals of a slam.
On Wednesday he plays Canadian sixth seed Milos Raonic — coached by U.S. tennis legend John McEnroe.
If you’re not a regular follower of tennis, you’re probably asking this question: Who the heck is Sam Querrey? And just how far can he go?
A laid-back, hard-hitting Californian
Querrey is a laid-back, 6-foot-6-inch 28-year-old known for his hard hitting, particularly his serve and forehand. You won’t see a lot of fiery emotions between points from this guy, who started playing tennis at age 4. He had a full scholarship to play at the University of Southern California but opted to turn pro instead in June 2006.
Querrey broke into the ATP World Tour top-100 rankings in 2007 and has remained there since, reaching as high as No. 17 in 2011. Despite his deep run at Wimbledon this year, Querrey’s favorite surface isn’t grass, preferring the hard court.
He’s won eight singles titles in his career, his most recent coming at the Delray Beach Open, an ATP 250 event, in Florida in February.
This year he passed $7 million in career prize money — by comparison, the 25-year-old Raonic is closing on $11 million and Djokovic is the first tennis player to crack $100 million.
While Djokovic is also coached by a tennis great, Boris Becker, Querrey shares his — Craig Boynton — with fellow L.A.-based pro Steve Johnson (who was beaten by Federer in round four at Wimbledon Monday).
Outside of tennis, Querrey’s hobbies include basketball (he’s also a Los Angeles Lakers fan), table tennis and golf. And another fun fact: In March 2015, Querrey was on the Bravo TV show “The Millionaire Matchmaker.” His hype video before the show made the rounds on Twitter in the last week.
But sorry, ladies. Querrey is taken, saying Monday that his girlfriend is at Wimbledon with him.
How far can he go?
Querrey is in what is foreign territory for American men’s tennis players these days.
The U.S. has been looking for the next great American men’s tennis player since Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi retired, and that void has yet to be adequately filled years later.
An American man getting this far in Wimbledon — or any major for that matter — has been rare lately. The last in a grand slam quarterfinal was John Isner at the 2011 U.S. Open. The last American man to win a major was Andy Roddick — also at the U.S. Open — in 2003.
As for Wimbledon history, Roddick finished runner-up in 2004, 2005 and 2009 — all to Roger Federer. The last U.S. male to win the singles title in southwest London was Sampras, who did so for a record seventh time back in 2000. That’s also the last year Americans swept the Wimbledon men’s and women’s singles titles, when Sampras defeated Australian Patrick Rafter and Venus Williams beat compatriot Lindsay Davenport.
But despite any additional pressure, Querrey hasn’t let the big stage faze him.
“You know, I haven’t felt many nerves yet this week,” Querrey said after winning against Mahut. “I think I’m kind of over that almost. Hopefully I will just kind of play freely and have fun and play big, and hopefully get another win.”