Serena Williams to America’s Rescue as Sam Querrey Falters

Serena Williams at the Sony Open Tennis (Christopher Levy for Tennis Grandstand)

By Jane Voigt

MIAMI, FL (March 26, 2013) — As the Miami Heat reached for NBA history, notching their 27th consecutive win yesterday, Serena Williams did them many times better. By defeating Li Na in today’s quarterfinal, Williams tied Steffi Graf‘s record of 59 Sony Open Tennis match wins, although her reaction was less than enthusiastic.

“Cool,” she said.

Serena generally does not like conversations that surround records, but we all know they matter to her and her place along the timeline of history. Was she thinking about the record on court today?

“She is such a great champion, past, and when you go out there you don’t think, ‘I’m going to break this person’s record,’” Williams began, a bit flustered to still be on the topic. “You say, ‘Can I break serve?’”

On the men’s side, records were the last thing on Sam Querrey‘s mind as the top-ranked American lost to a sharp Tomas Berdych, 6-1 6-1, in 52 minutes.

“Just one of those awful days,” Querrey started. “I missed routine forehand after routine forehand. My first serve percentage was at 40, I’m guessing. Like the more you miss the harder it gets to, you know, get the ball in. It just kept getting worse.”

In fact, his first serve percentage was 39%. Dismal indeed.

The only thing Querrey wanted to do was put this disaster of a match behind him and get prepared for Davis Cup next month in Boise, Idaho where they take on tennis powerhouse Novak Djokovic and team Serbia.

But his loss had bigger implications for tennis, especially men’s American tennis. This will be the first time in history that an American male will not be in the quarterfinals of Sony Open Tennis.

“We get ripped a lot for not having a lot of guys in the top 20 and the top 10,” Querrey began. “But, you know, we won our first round Davis Cup and hopefully we’ll win in Boise.”

Davis Cup aside, Querrey had some weight on his shoulders being the number-one American coming in today’s match. But he implied that position didn’t seem to influence just how badly he hit against Berdych. The fact that he had a day off yesterday because Milos Raonic pulled out with strep throat giving Querrey the walkover also didn’t affect him.

“I have played a ton of matches this year,” he said, emphatically. “I was bummed for Milos, but it was nice to kind of get an extra day of rest because I played a lot and we have a long week ahead in Davis Cup. I still felt good. I mean, I was hitting the ball clean.”

Should American fans expect the drought to continue?

“It’s not like we had guys in the quarters week in and week out in Masters Series,” Querrey said. “I think we’re going to turn it around. I feel like I’m just going to get better. John [Isner], you know, he’s probably in a little bit of a rough patch. He can pull himself out of it. If Mardy [Fish] gets back in there I think we can get guys back in the quarters consistently.”

Yet the fact is for this moment, in Miami at the 2013 Sony Open Tennis tournament, the quarterfinals will be comprised of all European players.

So, it’s Serena Williams to America’s rescue. And for the second day in a row, she had to come back from 5-2 down in the second set to pull off the victory.

“This week it seems to be so far something that I have done, at least my past two matches,” she said. “But it’s good to be able to at least come back.”

Her 6-3 7-6(5) win over Li Na was not a good demonstration of what we expect to witness from the woman who can whack upwards to 20-plus aces a match. Today she hit six double faults.

“Look, I just can’t hit any more double faults,” she said, as if talking to herself. “It’s embarrassing and unprofessional. I hit about 50 in one game, and it was just outrageous. It was like at this point I shouldn’t be a professional tennis player. That was my goal, I’m not hitting any more double faults.”

On top of her wiggy serves, Serena looked to have injured her right hip or thigh in set one. As soon as it ended, she called the trainer but took no medical time out.

“Yeah I just had a little bit of a problem, a little with the hip, and it was just really weird.”

Williams, it seems, does not consider herself the singular hope for American women’s tennis, although she does hold 15 major singles titles and 13 major doubles titles. At 31, she should probably rethink her leadership role because all women tennis players look up to her for strength.

“I think for the most part Americans did pretty good here, at least on the ladies side,” she explained. “I just think there are so many great American female players right now. I think we’re doing really good, to be honest.”

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