Southern California Tennis Camps

Wimbledon – Johnson & Querrey Play Into Second Week

Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey turned the first Saturday of The Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club into a Fourth of July fireworks show, a full two days before the actual celebration (that usually doesn’t take place in London). They did it despite devilish weather conditions that sprinkled rain delays on the contests. At the end of the day, when the ever-ready umbrellas were wrapped up and stowed, Johnson had solidly packaged a 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.  Separate “Oohs” and “Ahs” rang out when Querrey surprised world No. 1, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, 7-6. 6-1, 3-6, 7-6.  In essence, Querrey’s match was the match of the tournament, thus far.

Sam Querrey Photo Susan Mullane_camerawork usa

Sam Querrey Photo Susan Mullane_camerawork usa

Playing in feature locations, Johnson was on Court 18 while Querrey was impressing on Court 1, the doubles partners’ matches ended almost simultaneously. “I did a fair bit of scoreboard watching,” Johnson admitted. “I will tell people that I didn’t, but it was hard not to.  I was serving match point and Sam won, and the crowd went crazy.  I told him he should have just waited like another 30 seconds because I had to reset and I ended up losing that point.

“It was what it was. I didn’t get to watch much because I was playing, and I am super happy for him. God, he deserves it.”

Djokovic’s post-match behavior and comments evidenced the classy champion he is, particularly when he was nagged by questions about being injured.  “I just want to say congratulations to Sam,” he offered. “He played a terrific match.  He served very well, as he usually does.  I think that part of his game was brutal today.  He made a lot of free points with the first serve. Just well done.  He just overpowered me.”

Steve Johnson Fred Mullane_camerawork usaJPG

Steve Johnson Fred Mullane_camerawork usaJPG

It was only the fourth time, in the Open Era, that the defending champion had lost before the Round of 16. None-the-less, Djokovic said,  “Again, I don’t want to take anything out of victory from my opponent today.  He played very well and he deserved to win. I had my chances maybe in the fourth set, serving for the set. In the Tie-Break, I was leading, but I just wasn’t feeling the ball as well as I wished. But, that’s sport.”

Going into the match, Djokovic had won 30 straight Grand Slam matches and was 8-1 against his opponent. It is hardly surprising that after the victory, the 28-year-old Querrey  admitted it was “the best win” of his career, and went on to say, “I think with the stage that it was here at Wimbledon, to beat Novak, who is playing at such a high level for the past five years, I would say, definitely.”

He was ahead two sets to love when weather force the contest. “I think we went on and off four times, including yesterday’s two sets”, Querrey said. “So it made it tricky today. I lost the first four games and kind of went, ‘Oh, no, this is going the wrong way quickly’. Fortunately, like I said, with the rain delay, I made a couple adjustments. I came back out and settled down a little bit. I lost the third set, but played well the last four games of it. The fourth set was similar to the first set.  I was saving a lot of breakpoints early.  Every game I held, it put a little more pressure back on him and a little less on me.”

Johnson began 2016 ranked No. 32, but his results weren’t as consistent as they had been last year. He struggled during the terre battue part of the season through Roland Garros and that continued when the play switched to grass. But, for the past two-weeks, he has regained the form and performed like the Pac-12 Tennis Player of the Century, an honor the former USC star received in late April. The highlight came the week before Wimbledon. He won his first ATP Tour title at Nottingham defeating Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay, 7-6, 7-5 in the final. (The victory moved his ranking to No. 29, which is a career high).

After defeating Dimitrov, the 26-year-old said, “The title was enormous for the confidence. The whole week was enormous.  Even if I had lost to Pablo, it wouldn’t have been a negative week by any means.  Monday was a quick turnaround. It was more about, survival, just get through it, maybe it’s not your best tennis. It was the first time I had hit on these courts and everything. I got through it, and had Tuesday off.   Wednesday I think I played a game.  Thursday I played a good match against (Jeremy) Chardy (of France). Friday, Saturday, whatever it was, I strung together a bunch of good mini sessions against Grigor.  I’m just glad to get the win today.

“This is my first time in the second week, it’s definitely something I wanted to achieve, hopefully, this year. I didn’t start the year the way I wanted, but that’s why it’s a long year.  You have to rebound and take the good with the bad and hopefully turn things around.”

Being more analytical he added,  “I think, for a while, I just was getting in my own way a little bit mentally. I just needed to play tennis again, not worry about the outside factors and everything.  I think for me it was just focusing on what I do best on a tennis court and that’s have fun and play tennis.  That’s what I need to focus on.”

Johnson and Querrey have a long-standing relationship. “We’ve been buddies since we were ten or eleven-years-old,” Querrey said. “He wasn’t on tour with me the first five, or six years I played. Now that he’s here, the last month has been great for him. He quietly is in the Round of 16.  I think, if I would have lost today, he probably would have been the front of this. I’m really happy, really excited for him. This is his first second week in a Slam.  I think he’s really stoked.”

In May, they won Geneva, which was their first doubles title as a tandem. “Sam and I play best when we’re having fun,” Johnson said. “It was probably not the most ideal situation having to go out and play doubles today, but we had fun.  That’s what we do best.

“It was fun out there, to hit a few balls, play with your buddy on a great day.  I tried to walk a bit behind him since the cameras were all following him around.  I didn’t want to be in the spotlight or anything.  So I just let him walk out there and kind of have his moment.”

Unfortunately, Radek Štěpánek of the Czech Republic and Nenad Zimonjić of Serbia weren’t that accommodating when they handed the duo a 7-6, 6-3 first round loss.

Not only Johnson and Querrey are good friends and doubles partners, they also work with the same coach, Craig Boynton. Querrey spoke about Boynton’s influence, saying, “Craig has done an unbelievable job.  We’ve been working together all year.  He also coaches Steve. Every time we were going on and off, he just kept things very simple for me, Throw the ball up on the serve, pick a target and hit it. He wanted me to keep thinking my second serve, and return of serve. He told me to make sure you’re always smiling out there, having fun. I got to have him in my ear a lot because we had so many rain delays.  He kept reminding me of all of this, which was helpful.“

Having a two set lead and being “rained off” and then being forced to come back the next day to finish things off, would be stressful for most any player. But, Querrey is not, in the least, ordinary as Johnson pointed out, “Sam is Sam.  He’s in the locker room joking, golfing around, working on his putting. He has Djokovic two sets down on the ropes. That’s just the way Sam is.  Last night, you couldn’t tell anything was out of the ordinary. That’s just Sam. But, for him it works.  For some other guys ‑‑ I’m very easygoing, but when it comes time to play, I try and get my head in the game and go about my business. But, Sam’s a great guy.  He deserves it and I’m very happy for him.”

Querrey candidly admitted he has a “laidback” approach. “ I’m sure there have been times when I’ve been much too casual and relaxed and I’ve lost a lot of matches,” he said. “When I’m out there, I’m intense.  I get nervous, I get an adrenaline rush.  I might show it different than others.  In a high‑stress moment, I might look relaxed, but I am feeling it inside.”

Though their successes took place on July 2nd, this year’s Fourth of July weekend will be long remembered by both Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey.

Mark Winters

Look for a fresh examination of tennis topics at “Mark’s Thoughts”

 

 

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