Sam Querrey recalls a moment in his hotel at the 2007 Australian Open, when he was 19 for the first time in his professional career. When he entered the elevator, world number one Roger Federer was there.
“I remember him introducing himself to me. He said, ‘Hey Sam, Roger, welcome to the Tour’, something along those lines. “Good to see you here,” Querrey recalled. “It was pretty cool for a guy like that to meet a new player like me.”
It was a pinch moment for the teenager Querrey, a recognition of his arrival on the circuit. More than a decade later, after his first-round loss at the US Open to Ilya Ivashka, the American’s illustrious career came to an end.
Querrey is retiring having won 10 singles trophies on the ATP Tour, climbed to 11th in his career in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and had 23 wins over top 10 opponents.
“My body is a bit tired. I’ve been at the US Open since 2006. I have two little kids. I want to go do something else,” Querrey said. “I want to test my mind somewhere else and try something new. . I feel like it’s the right time.”
The Californian turned professional in 2006 and has never looked back. From those early days, people around Querrey knew he was destined for success. Fellow countryman Steve Johnson recalls his friend being a local star when he was a junior.
“He was always someone that all the kids my age or younger looked up to. He was always the best in Southern California. He was the best growing up,” Johnson said. someone who was not only a great junior tennis player and tennis great, but he was always fun to be around. He always had a smile. He was always someone we all looked up to.
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Querrey broke into the Top 100 for the first time the week after meeting Federer in January 2007 and winning his first ATP Tour title in Las Vegas in 2008. At 6’6″, his powerful game quickly proved difficult to manage for players of all skill levels.
But in September 2009, everything changed. In Bangkok, he sat down on a glass table to tie his basketball and fell through. A piece of glass lodged in his arm and tore a muscle.
“Luckily he missed the nerf,” Querrey recalled. “I had surgery, recovered, regrouped and 2010 was one of my best years. Fortunately, it’s behind me and I was able to recover even better and I hardly suffered an injury during the most large part of my career.
Querrey missed the rest of 2009, but it could have been much worse. Instead, the American forged ahead and continued to improve. Some of his best tennis didn’t come until the late 2010s.
One tournament in particular showed that Querrey could mow down even the most talented players on the ATP Tour. At Acapulco in 2017 he beat Kyle Edmund, David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal to lift the trophy. His coach at the time, Craig Boynton, fondly remembers the tournament as an example of Querrey in full flight.
“You would have to have something weird to be able to compete with him when he was in full flight. He just took the racket completely out of your hands. Massive serve, big forehand, backhand have improved a lot. Return of service [was good], very athletic. Good underhand at the net. Good touch,” Boynton said. “It was like poetry in motion watching him play. It was so much fun. He was so offensive and deceptively fast. Lots of fun.”
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Johnson, who competes with Querrey in doubles at the US Open (Querrey’s last event), has seen up close and personal what his friend is capable of.
“In my eyes, Sam has one of the best serves, maybe in the history of tennis. He’s definitely in my Top 5, Top 10 in history,” Johnson said. right, he’s got this commanding game… he’s got all the intangibles you’d want in a tennis player.”
Along with his Acapulco championship win over Nadal, Querrey reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2017 and three additional major quarter-finals. He picked up two wins over Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.
“It was amazing. Playing at one time with Novak, Roger and Rafa is pretty crazy. Usually you don’t have the three greatest players of all time – and that’s not really an argument, they’re the three greatest players of all time, I think. To have them in the same generation is pretty crazy,” Querrey said. “It’s been an amazing run for them and being part of that week in and week out has been pretty cool and playing them all a handful of times has been great and when you play these guys you play them on the biggest stages of the Grand Slam, on center court, so it’s amazing experiences and having the chance to win a few times is pretty cool.
As many marks as his serves and forehands left on the court, his relaxed and light-hearted demeanor off the court also had an impact. Boynton said he was “really sad” that Querrey was no longer on tour.
“I’m happy for him because he’s happy. If you don’t know Sam Querrey, I would tell you to get to know him. He’s just a really nice person, very welcoming, funny and fun. I absolutely think back to the time we were together fondly,” Boynton said. “I told him I miss him. I miss him, I miss his stories, I miss his personality. He always made me laugh. He’s just one in a million type of guy, maybe a of guys out of ten billion. They just don’t come any better than Sam Querrey.
Querrey does not leave his tennis family behind. In fact, later that year, her family and Johnson’s family are going on vacation together. As proud as he is of what he has achieved on the pitch, the lifelong friendships he has made are also very important.
“I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent over the years. I’ve only missed a few majors over a 17-year run. I was a pretty good big-game player. I feel like the best is the opponent, the better I’ve played and I’ve had great wins,” Querrey said. “I feel like I have a great relationship with all the other male players, all the female players, the managers tournament and they are people who will be in my life and people I can call friends forever. I’m proud of it too. »