by Bob Stockton
2017 seemed like it was going to be a transformative year in Sam Querrey’s career, marking the reinvention of an inconsistent outsider as a player with genuine designs on reaching a Grand Slam final. The American delivered career-best performances at three of the four Grand Slams. Admittedly, reaching the third round of the Australian Open for the fifth time but failing to progress further is nothing to write home about, but a first Slam semi-final at Wimbledon followed by a first quarter-final at the US Open made 2017 a very good year for Querrey.
Querrey has always had the potential to beat anyone when at his peak level. There are players in the top 20 who are more consistent but lack the ability to reach a higher plane on occasion, with the likes of Pablo Carreno Busta, David Goffin and Roberto Bautista Agut all distinguished players but the kind of performers who could feasibly play their best against the world number 1 and still lose. There are other players in the top 20 who have mercurial talent and can be unstoppable for sets and matches at a time, such as the maverick Fabio Fognini and the erratic Grigor Dimitrov.
Querrey fits into that category, with his form at Wimbledon an indictment of this. In 2016, Querrey stunned world number 1 Novak Djokovic in the third round, with the American considered a massive outsider but able to reach a new level. If that wasn’t enough, Querrey repeated this feat the following year by beating home favourite and world number 1 Andy Murray in the Wimbledon quarter-final. Admittedly, there were question marks over both Djokovic’s and Murray’s fitness, but often those players can use their intimidating aura to grind through and exploit opponents’ weakness. Querrey played like a man possessed, possessed by a better tennis player than usual.
There are two key elements to consider when analysing if a player can win a Grand Slam for the first time: can they beat the best, and do they have the resilience to deliver a good level for a fortnight? A look at the latest tennis odds with bet365 for the US Open sees Querrey priced at 80/1 to win the title, a price that reflects that his ability to beat the best is currently outweighed by question marks over his consistency. This is why John Isner is at a much shorter price of 40/1, with Querrey’s fellow big-serving American much more dependable.
For example, Isner is less likely to lose to a player ranked outside the top 300 when defending a title. This is what Querrey served up at Los Cabos, falling to rank outsider Egor Gerasimov in the round of sixteen in a tournament at which he arrived as reigning champion. Querrey has endured a tough 2018. After winning the first set at the French Open against Gilles Simon, Querrey promptly rolled over. He repeated this feat at Wimbledon against Gael Monfils, made all the more disappointing considering his form in London.
Querrey may have given the world one of the great tennis-related videos through his dancing skills, but he will be determined to discover if he can give the sport one of the great Grand Slam final performances. If he can bring his best to the US Open this year then he will strike fear into the tournament favourites. The signs don’t necessarily suggest that this is too likely at this stage, but that’s the thing with mercurial talents: there’s no telling when they’ll bring their best.