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)
*Justine Henin is to return to action this weekend at the Hopman Cup in Australia having been kept out since Wimbledon with an elbow injury. The former world No. 1 hopes to be able to compete in the Australian Open but fears it may take her up to six months to regain full fitness. “There were concerns about the future of my career,” the 28-year-old Belgian said. “I hope I can build my condition by playing tournaments this year and hope to be really ready around June-July.” 2010 was the seven-time Grand Slam winner’s return from an 18-month retirement and she will hope to add that elusive Wimbledon title to her CV before giving up permanently.
*British No. 1 Andy Murray has confirmed that Spaniard Alex Corretja will remain as his coach for at least the first half of 2011. Corretja, a former world No. 2, took over the role after Murray split with Miles Maclagan back in July. “Andy has taken time out from his busy pre-season fitness training to confirm that the current coaching set-up, with both Alex Corretja and Dani Vallverdu, will continue into the first half of next year,” read a statement on Murray’s official website.
*Brad Gilbert has confirmed that he will work as a consultant to Japanese star Kei Nishikori at fifteen tournaments throughout 2011. Gilbert retired from the tour in 1994 and his since coached Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray on a permanent basis. “I have been working at the IMG Bollettieri Academy for a few years now, helping out Kei and other players,” Gilbert told ATPWorldTour.com.
“I decided to expand my role with Kei to 15 tournaments, but TV work with ESPN will remain my first priority.”
*World No. 8 Jelena Jankovic has begun working with former Romanian world No. 13 Andrei Pavel on a trial basis after lifting only one title in 2010 at Indian Wells. She was being handled by Ricardo Sanchez but they have now parted ways.
*American Wayne Odesnik has had his two-year doping ban overturned after 12 months. He is now free to return to competitive matches from December 29. Whilst entering Australia for last year’s Brisbane International he was stopped by customs and eight vials of the growth hormone HGH were found in his luggage, although Odesnik never tested positive for taking the substance. Whilst at one time being ranked as high as No. 77 in the world, Odesnik was ranked No. 111 when the incident occurred and has now slipped off the rankings altogether.
*Maria Sharapova has reserved a wildcard entry in to the Sydney tournament for if she falls early on in the previous week’s festivities at Auckland. The former world No. 1 is usually pretty lax in her preparations for Melbourne Park but has opted for a more strenuous approach after losing in the first round in 2010.
*Alona Bondarenko has announced she will miss the Australian Open after undergoing the second knee surgery of her career. 2010 semifinalist Jie Zheng will also miss the competition after failing to recover from the wrist surgery she underwent in September. In the men’s draw, Robby Ginepri is set to miss out after he set March as his benchmark to return to the tour after suffering a motorbike accident in November whilst swerving to avoid a squirrel.
*The GB Fed Cup team have announced that teen starlets Heather Watson and Laura Robson are set to compete in next month’s Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 tie in Israel. Watson, 18, was the 2009 US Open junior champion while Robson, 16, won the Wimbledon junior title in 2008 aged just 14. Watson said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have been selected. It’s a dream come true as I’ve grown up watching the competition. I can’t wait to head out to Israel with the girls and give it our all.” Captain Nigel Sears added: “It is the right time for Heather and Laura to try and make it a successful week.”
*Teens the world over were celebrating early Christmas presents after receiving wildcards in to the 2011 Australian Open main draw. Australia’s No. 11 Olivia Rogowska was celebrating after defeating former world No. 4 Jelena Dokic 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 in the final of the Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs. Dokic, though, has since been handed a discretionary wildcard by the Aussie tennis authorities. Marinko Matosevic overcame Peter Luczak in five sets in the men’s final to earn his place and Luczak has also been handed an entry card. Tennis Australia have also handed discretionary wildcards to Matt Ebden and Alicia Molik. In the American equivalent, played at the Racquet Club of the South, Georgia, world No. 444 Lauren Davis, 17, upset No. 113 Coco Vandeweghe, 19, in their final 6-2, 6-2. Ryan Harrison won the male playoffs after overcoming Jack Sock. The French Tennis Federation have awarded their discretionary pass in to the main draw to Virginie Razzano.
*Latest Career Grand Slam achiever Rafa Nadal was voted the 2010 BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year. “For me it’s an honour, thank you very much to the BBC for giving me this award,” said the 24-year-old. “It’s just a dream being in the list of great champions to receive this award.” For reaction and to see the Spaniard collect the trophy visit the BBC Tennis website. Marca.com also named him ‘Spanish Athlete of the Decade’ while elpais.es readers voted him the ‘Spanish Athlete of the Year.’
*The ATP website has interviews with a host of top stars available to read at your leisure including how Andy Roddick and Marcos Baghdathis have prepared themselves for the 2011 season and whether Novak Djokovic can keep up his impressive end to 2010.
*You have until midnight on December 31 to cast your votes in the TennisReporters.net 2010 Tennis Awards so get over there now before it’s too late to have your say on who were the players of the year, which matches really set your fires alight and which stars provide the greatest eye candy.
*Returning Belgian ace Justine Henin has announced that the elbow injury she sustained at Wimbledon in July has curtailed her 2010 season. She will begin light training in October in preparation for taking part in the 2011 Hopman Cup which begins January 1. “Unfortunately the healing process is taking time,” Henin said. “This means I must be patient.”
*Andy Murray believes his final victory over Roger Federer in the Rogers Cup last week boosts his chances of lifting the US Open in three weeks’ time. “It was good for me to win today [Sunday],” stated Murray after the final. “Three good results in a row against Nalbandian, Rafa and Roger, so that will give me confidence for next week. I managed to stay tough mentally, which is always tough against Roger because he started to play some great tennis, but it’s a great way to finish the week – I played very well.” Murray also reiterated that he was in no hurry to find a replacement for coach Miles Maclagan anytime soon. The full interview can be seen at the BBC Tennis website.
*Andy Roddick has revealed that mononucleosis has been causing his nausea and tiredness in recent tournaments. After missing Toronto to get to the bottom of his illness Roddick has returned to winning ways at Cincy this week. “I’m just glad that we found out something that was causing it,” Roddick said before play taking to the court. “It’s nice to have a little bit of clarity moving forward. It’s not something that’s going to affect me, anything super-serious. It was just me wondering if I was out of shape or what was going on, why there was this lethargic feeling.” Roddick has been told he is getting over the illness so believes he will be fine for the US Open.
*Despite again hinting he may be close to retirement James Blake is one of those handed a wildcard in to the US Open by the USTA this week. Blake lost in 45 minutes to the Russian Denis Istomin at Cincinnati on Tuesday but the current world No. 107 reached the quaterfinals of the Slam in both 2005 and 2006. He is joined by compatriots Ryan Sweeting, Donald Young, Jack Sock and Bradley Klahn in being handed first-round places. Australia’s Carsten Ball and France’s Guillaume Rufin have also secured slots.
*Two famous names have been handed wildcard entries on the women’s side. Chelsey Gullickson, daughter of former New York Yankees pitcher Bill Gullickson, and Coco Vandeweghe, niece of former New Jersey Mets General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe, are to enter the first round draw. They will join American girls Jamie Hampton, Christina McHale and Shelby Rogers, as well as Aussie Sophie Ferguson and France’s Virginie Razzano in the draw.
*Juan Martin Del Potro latest – he is now NOT expected to defend his title at the US Open. Tune in next week for the next twist in this story.
*However, Venus Williams insists she will play the Slam despite withdrawing from Cincinnati and Montreal with a knee injury. “…I was not feeling 100 percent and I am very sad I wasn’t able to go back to Cincinnati and make my first appearance in Montreal,” she wrote on her official website. “But I am getting geared up to play in New York in just a couple of weeks.”
*In coaching latest – Paul Annacone is not with Roger Federer at Cincinnati. Is this the end of the trial?
*John Isner has assured fans the ankle injury he suffered against David Nalbandian at Cincinnati will not keep him out of the US Open. Serving for the first set at 5-4 he was forced to retire having rolled his ankle in the previous game. “It was just a routine second serve return that went into my body, so I moved to get out of the way,” said Isner. “So I had to jump up for it. Upon landing, my right foot just twisted really quick on the outside. That was it. I couldn’t play after that.”
*Novak Djokovic’s 6-3, 7-5 victory over fellow Serb and great friend Viktor Troicki was his 100th win at ATP 1000 Masters Events. His lifetime record now reads 100-36.
*American doubles legends the Bryan bros. have returned to the summit of the doubles game following their 7th title of the year at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. They now sit top of the individual doubles rankings although they remain behind Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic in the team rankings. They beat French pairing Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau in straight sets in the final and Mike said: “We were lucky today. We played the best match of the year,” he joked. “We had a great week. It is one of our favourite weeks of the year. We will be back in 2012!”
*Kim Clijsters’ victory at Cincinnati was her third title of 2010. She now has more victories this year than anyone else showing just how wide open the women’s game currently is.
*After winning over Taylor Dent at Cincy this week Rafa Nadal has been complaining about the speed the court is playing at. He seems to think that the two North American masters Events (Cincinnati and Montreal/Toronto) should play at the same slower speed rather than Cincy playing closer to the quick velocity of the courts at Flushing Meadows. “It is something (that) in the future the tournaments can work to make the courts more similar,” Nadal said. “For us it’s difficult to adapt, especially if you only have one or two days [between tournaments]. When you get to semifinals or final it’s not easy to adapt, especially in the beginning of the tournament. So it’s big change. This first match always is very dangerous.”
*Tennis legend Chris Evert has been inducted in to the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame this week after a career which took in 154 singles titles, including 18 Grand Slams. Evert lifted the then-Canadian Open four times in 1974, 1980, 1984 and 1985 while she also lost the final to Tracey Austin in 1981 and great rival Martina Navratilova in 1989. “Aside from the Grand Slams, you had the best crowds and you certainly had very knowledgeable crowds,” she told those gathered at the induction ceremony.
*Roger Federer’s finals appearance in Toronto has seen him reclaim the world No. 2 slot from Novak Djokovic in this week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings. He does, though, remain nearly 4,000 rankings points behind No. 1 Rafa Nadal. Andy Murray’s title lift has seen him consolidate his No. 4 slot ahead of Sweden’s Robin Soderling. Serbia’s Viktor Troicki (47) and the Belgian Xavier Malisse (49) both climb in to the top 50 while Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili sneaks in to the top 100.
*In the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings Caroline Wozniacki has climbed back above Jelena Jankovic to be world No. 2, although she, too, remains some distance behind No. 1 Serena Williams. Kim Clijsters’ Rogers Cup win sees her jump to No. 4 in the world while China’s Na Li re-enters the top 10. Ana Ivanovic is seeing a return for her improved form as she leaps from No. 62 to No. 39 and Timea Bacsinszky is in the Top 50 at No. 49. Dinara Safina’s woes continue as she drops from No. 35 to No. 70 this week and there’s a huge leap for Uzbekistan’s Akgul Amanmuradova who rises from No. 114 to No. 76.
*Roger Federer has announced he will play this year’s Stockholm Open, according to Swedish English-language newspaper The Local. Federer was a late withdrawal in 2008 but this time promises to be ready for the event where he will face competition for the title from local hero Robin Soderling as well as thorn-in-his-side Tomas Berdych. “The competition has fine traditions with winners such as Borg, Edberg, Becker and Agassi and I also want my name engraved on the trophy,” he said speaking from Cincinnati.
*Fernando Gonzalez has taken a wildcard in to New Haven next week. Ana Ivanovic also hopes to return from injury at the event ready for the US Open.
Maria Sharapova’s comeback to the WTA Tour was cut short by Lucie Safarova. The leggy Russian was ousted in two sets 6-4, 6-3. Sharapova will now head for Strasbourg.
“It’s a struggle trying to find the rhythm,” a philosophical Sharapova, who was playing her first tournament since pulling out of the Sony Ericsson Open in March with an elbow injury, told a news conference.
There is a lot of work for Sharapova to do if she wants to be considered a serious contender for the French Open.