Sunday, July 3, 2016

Querrey ends Djokovic's Grand Slam win streak

Sam Querrey, playing in Napa, Calif., in 2014, stunned top-ranked Novak
Djokovic in the third round at Wimbledon. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The numbers said Sam Querrey had little or no chance to beat Novak Djokovic in the third round at Wimbledon.
   Djokovic is ranked No. 1 -- 40 spots ahead of Querrey -- and he had won 30 consecutive Grand Slam matches.
   By capturing the French Open last month, Djokovic became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major singles titles at once.
   Djokovic has won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, tied for fourth in history with Roy Emerson behind Roger Federer (17), Rafael Nadal (14) and Pete Sampras (14). Querrey, an 11-year veteran, has never reached a major quarterfinal.
   Furthermore, Djokovic was 8-1 against Querrey. In their last meeting, Djokovic won 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in the third round of the 2014 U.S. Open.
   Entering Wimbledon, Querrey was 0-2 in singles in Grand Slam tournaments this year and 1-6 in his last six Slams. Also, he was 0-9 against top-10 players in majors.
   But guess what. Computers don't play tennis matches. People do. People with emotions. People with different strengths and weaknesses.
   Those factors resulted in the 28th-seeded Querrey's 7-6 (6), 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (5) victory on Saturday in the completion of a suspended match. Play had been halted by rain after the first two sets on Friday in the players' first meeting on grass.
   "It's definitely the biggest win I've ever had," gushed Querrey, who rallied in the fourth-set tiebreaker after missing his first serve at 1-3.
   Although Querrey lives in Santa Monica in the Los Angelea area, he has strong Northern California ties. He was born in San Francisco and grew up in nearby Santa Rosa before moving to Las Vegas at 7 and Thousand Oaks in the Los Angeles region at 10.
   At 18 in 2006, Querrey became the first player to win a Challenger, equivalent to Triple A in baseball, in his professional debut. It came in Yuba City, 42 miles (68 kilometers) north of Sacramento, the state capital.
   Querrey played part-time for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in 2012 and 2013. In late 2014, he swept the singles titles in Napa, Sacramento and Tiburon on the three-week Challenger swing through Northern California.  
   Querrey, 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters), has a blistering serve and a powerful, whipping forehand that are accentuated on grass. He pounded 31 aces to the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Djokovic's seven.
Novak Djokovic, playing at Indian Wells last year, suffered a letdown
after becoming the first man since Rod Laver 47 years ago to hold all
four Grand Slam singles titles at once. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "He just overpowered me," lamented Djokovic, the two-time defending champion who suffered his earliest exit in a Grand Slam tournament since he fell to Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in the third round of the 2009 French Open.
   On his way to the net to shake hands with Querrey, Djokovic showed his usual grace and class by giving a thumbs-up to the winner.  
   Djokovic's French Open title, which made him the eighth man to achieve a career Grand Slam in singles, came only four weeks ago. It was not enough time to regain his intensity.
   Garbine Muguruza, 22, of Spain suffered a similar letdown on Thursday after winning her first Grand Slam title in the French Open. She lost to qualifier Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 6-3, 6-2 in the second round.
   "It's an amazing feeling, obviously, to be able to hold four Grand Slams at the same time," said Djokovic, a 29-year-old Serb. "Coming into Wimbledon, I knew it's not going to be easy to re-motivate myself.
   "But the importance of this tournament is so immense that you always find ways to really get inspired and prepare and try to give your best. Obviously, my best wasn't good enough this year."
   When asked if he was 100 percent healthy, Djokovic replied diplomatically, "Not really, but it's not the place and time to talk about it."
   Djokovic's exit makes second-seeded Andy Murray of Great Britain a strong favorite to win his second Wimbledon crown and third major title. He ended a 77-year drought for British men at the All England Club in 2013.
   Now Querrey, who overcame a two-sets-to-none deficit against Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic in the first round, must guard against a letdown. He is scheduled to meet unseeded Nicolas Mahut of France on Monday for a quarterfinal berth.
   Mahut, ranked 51st, defeated his countryman and doubles partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-6 (5), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of major in singles for the first time at 34 years old. Mahut and Herbert are seeded first in doubles.
   Mahut is 2-0 against Querrey. Only three weeks ago, Mahut won 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals on grass in s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. Mahut went on to earn his fourth career singles title.
   Six years ago at Wimbledon, Mahut lost to American John Isner in the first round in the longest match in history. Isner prevailed 70-68 in the fifth set in 11 hours, 5 minutes over three days.
   Ironically, Querrey lost to a Serb in the first round of doubles on Saturday. No. 14 seeds Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia defeated Querrey and Steve Johnson of Redondo Beach in -- yep -- the Los Angeles area 7-6 (4), 6-3.
   In the second round of men's doubles, No. 5 seeds Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil outclassed Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and former Stanford All-American Scott Lipsky of Irvine in -- where else? -- the Los Angeles region 6-2, 6-3.
   Meanwhile, 10th-seeded Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones) of San Jose and Abigail Spears of Colorado Springs, Colo., dominated Madison Brengle of Dover, Del., and Tatjana Maria of Germany 6-3, 6-0 in the second round of women's doubles.
   Lipsky and Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia won in the first round of mixed doubles, beating Guillermo Duran of Argentina and Chen Liang of China 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.        

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