By Romi Cvitkovic
WASHINGTON, D.C. — American Sam Querrey is one of a number of tennis players skipping the London Olympics this summer — but not by choice.
Querrey, who reached a career-high ranking of world No. 17 last year, joined the Sacramento Capitals for an unforgettable overtime thriller against the Washington Kastles last Wednesday. While Querrey was able to upset the Kastles’ “Closer” Bobby Reynolds 5-3, the Kastles ultimately prevailed on their sixth match point in the final team tiebreak, winning 21-19.
Querrey is coming off of his best Grand Slam results since the 2010 US Open, when he made it to the third round of this year’s Wimbledon Championships. His match against Marin Cilic went 17-15 in the fifth set for 5 hours and 31 minutes, making it the second-longest match in Wimbledon history. But a short while ago, he wasn’t even able to hit a tennis ball with confidence, much less survive on the court for over five hours without pain.
Querrey’s world began falling apart almost as quickly as his ranking had shot up. In early 2011, he struggled with a right elbow injury that prevented him from making much of a dent in any tournament he entered. After Queen’s Club in June, not being able to withstand the pain in his elbow any longer, he decided to get surgery and after three months, made a comeback.
Falling into the Challenger-level abyss and now ranked 125 in the world, Querrey was forced to play qualifying rounds of tournaments and finally reached a quarterfinal in Memphis this past February. He went on to win the Sarasota Challenger in April but fell in the first round of Roland Garros. He quickly rebounded as the grass court season started and went all the way to the semifinals of Queen’s Club. He then had another breakthrough when he defeated world No. 21 Milos Raonic in the second round of Wimbledon in June.
Querrey’s time had finally come. After the heartbreak and hard work, his dream re-solidified.
During his pre-match press conference on Wednesday, Querrey was asked about his good grass court season and the momentum he has gained. He answered simply.
“I feel like I’m playing really well — playing at a better level than my ranking,” he smiled.
Ranking. Isn’t that a funny thing in tennis? How accurate is a 52-week ranking system in this sport when your most recent results are the ones that correctly reflect your current game?
On June 11, 2012, Querrey was ranked No. 77 and thus the sixth-highest ranked American on Tour. This also happened to be the date for the U.S. Olympic team cut off. With Mardy Fish already deciding to skip the Olympics, Querrey still missed the chance to be the team’s fourth player, as Donald Young was ranked No. 48 and Ryan Harrison No. 52, and the team already included top Americans John Isner and Andy Roddick.
However, looking at the rankings two weeks later or even today, Querrey would have solidly made the U.S. Olympic tennis team with his ranking now at No. 55, whereas Young has dropped to No. 58.
Never one to resent other players, Querrey answered honestly when I asked him about this ranking dilemma between him and Young for the Olympics.
“It’s a little bit out of my control with getting hurt last year and then my ranking dropping to 120. Donald definitely earned [the Olympic spot] with his results, mostly from the end of last year. I’m happy for him. I got to play the Olympics in 2008 and he wasn’t there. So this is his first one, so I’m just excited for him.”
Putting things in perspective, Querrey talked about how playing six World TeamTennis matches in nine nights (with cross-country travel!) helped build his confidence for the summer hard court swing that begins this week in Los Angeles.
“It’s just a great opportunity especially in Los Angeles and D.C. with a lot of guys gone to the Olympics. They are two big weeks for me and I hope to win both of them … the six World TeamTennis matches this week has been really good practice for the hard court season … I feel like the results are starting to come back like in 2010.”
(All photos credit to author)