Q&A with American Sam Querrey
American Sam Querrey, 21, is ranked No. 37 on the ATP Tour
Querrey got his first taste of Centre Court at this year's Wimbledon
Querrey has a friend working as an intern for him through the fall
Fresh off a second-place finish at the Hall of Fame championships in Newport, R.I., Sam Querrey is ranked No. 37 on the ATP Tour. In a recent interview, the 21-year-old San Francisco native discussed his Centre Court debut, his bizarre encounters at Wimbledon Village, his loyal fan club and why he hired an intern.
SI.com: What was it like to step out onto Centre Court for your second round-match against Marin Cilic last month?
Sam Querrey: First off, I didn't think Cilic-Querrey would be Centre Court at Wimbledon, but I called all my friends and family. My dad flew out that night to come watch. That was my first time stepping on there. I almost had a headache for the first half hour. On the walk to the court I was not worried about the match, but just the whole scene out there. Then to come back from two sets to one and down a break and take it into a fifth -- even though I lost, I gained a lot. To go five sets on Centre Court, not many people can say that.
SI.com: Much was made of a London tabloid report that certain women players were selected to play on Centre Court based on their looks. Do you feel your looks played any part in the process?
Querrey: [Laughing] No idea what they look for out there. [Cilic] is already ranked around the top 10, and I was at 40 then. Hopefully they just saw two guys who have the potential to play a final someday.
SI.com: Where were you when Andy Roddick and Roger Federer were playing their epic final?
Querrey: I had a 6 a.m. flight from Los Angeles to Providence [R.I.], but I stopped in Cincinnati. When I got off the plane, it was 12-12 in the fifth set. I turned on my phone when we landed, saw the score and called my mom to make sure that was right. From there, I just walked to a sports bar. No one was actually eating or drinking anything. We were all just congregated around the bar. The manager was getting upset. He asked us to leave, but I kind of blew him off a little bit. No way was I leaving. I was going to be upset if they kept going because I had to board my flight.
SI.com: What have you seen in Roddick's game of late that has allowed him to grow?
Querrey: Andy's cut down his errors a bunch, and it's obvious that he's comfortable with running side to side for four hours if he has to. He is so fit. I think his serve is better than it was last year and he's gaining confidence with each match.
SI.com: What is it like to be around Andy?
Querrey: He cares about the youngsters who are coming up. When I am at Davis Cup, he knows the results in the Futures and the Challengers and even some of the Juniors. He wants the new wave of Americans to enjoy the success he has. You can ask him about any 17-, 18-, 19-year-old and he knows about them.
I first met him when I was a practice partner with the Davis Cup team in 2005 at Belgium. We introduced ourselves. We started hitting, then played a set. I was up 5-3 maybe, and he wound up beating me 7-5. Every time he'd get a point, he'd give me a staredown or a big fist pump just letting me know that even though I'm 17 and it's a practice set, he's there to beat me. But there are some funny jokes. He lets you know that you aren't going to come in and take his Davis Cup spot.
SI.com: Like Roddick, you are also a Twitter man. Please explain this post from Wimbledon in more than 140 characters: "this morning a homeless guy punched me in the arm after breakfast and it actually hurt."
Querrey: I was walking home from breakfast and someone who appeared to be a homeless man just punched me. He left a bruise on my left bicep. That was one of the first few days that Wimbledon started. Then a few nights later, there's a restaurant called the Dog and Fox, and some drunk girl walked straight at me and poked me in the stomach. I was getting a lot of physical contact from random strangers around Wimbledon Village.
SI.com: Roddick was really successful with the two-handed backhand in the final against Federer. How long have you used it?
Querrey: I've had it since I started playing at age 5 or 6. I'm not sure if it was my coach who started me on it, but it was just more comfortable. The game is kind of changing that way now. In the top 100, 75 percent of the guys now have two-handers and 25 percent go with one-handers. I am trying to limit the number of times I slice. I prefer to give it a rip if I can. I want to improve my return with it. I want to step up and take some more chances to be more aggressive.
SI.com: You're 6-foot-6 and you've played some doubles with the 6-9 John Isner. Would you two be a better NBA frontcourt or doubles pairing?
Querrey: We'd probably be better in the NBA, but we're an intimidating team when you look over the net. At a party for Prince players, Wayne Bryan [father of the Bryan brothers] made John Isner and I pick up Oliver Rochus and hold him up in front of everyone. He's 5-5 so that was pretty funny.
SI.com: How much of an advantage is it for taller players to pound powerful serves?
Querrey: Pretty much everyone who's 6-foot-4 or taller on tour has a huge serve. The most important thing is first-serve percentage. Why Ivo Karlovic is so tough is that his first-serve percentage is usually in the mid-70s. Roddick's the same way. I want to get mine up a little higher from the 60s right now.
[Against the big servers] your main focus is to get the ball back in play somehow, and if that's not working, you have to start guessing. If it's a deuce point or a break point, you're better off just picking a side and hoping you guess right. Even if you don't really guess, you're probably not going to get it anyway or get a good crack at it.
SI.com: As a former USC commit before you decided to turn pro, what is it like to train on UCLA's courts?
Querrey: I live out in Santa Monica so UCLA is just up the road. I love wearing USC stuff to the Bruins courts. Nothing makes me happier than putting on the hat when their women's team is out there. The entire team will look over and not even talk to me.
SI.com: Are you much of a tennis watcher when not on the court yourself?
Querrey: I didn't watch much tennis when I was younger. I can't remember seeing more than a few Grand Slam finals up until I was 16. If I get an invite from my buddies to go golf or play softball, I'll probably do that. I watch and want to learn, but take the Wimbledon final, for example. If it's on and I'm home, I'll watch it, but it's not a huge priority for me to watch tennis.
SI.com: Main interests off the court?
Querrey: Mostly rock music. I'm big on concerts. I'll try to see who is playing that week. I'm planning on seeing Blink 182 and No Doubt reunion shows this summer. They're my favorite from junior high. I'm also big on basketball, baseball. I am a Clippers fan. We got Blake Griffin. One of my friends is a valet parker, and [Clippers coach] Mike Dunleavy gave him just a dollar tip. I didn't like hearing that. Hopefully they'll have a decent season this year.
SI.com: Were you a tennis family?
Querrey: I was born in Northern California. My mom was working at a tennis club once a week. My mom and dad picked it up in their late 20s when they had me. My dad was a good athlete who went to Arizona as a baseball player, and he grew to be a 5.0 tennis player. My sister will be playing volleyball at Arizona in the fall as a freshman. We all played tennis, but weren't really a tennis family. I played all different sports coming up. Some kids play six hours a day since they were 8 years old. When I see 11-year-olds in the gym training for tennis, that's too much. You have to keep things fun. When you're that age, you should just do what you want.
SI.com: The Sam Querrey fan club, better known as the Samurai, has been seen and heard on tour. How did that following come about?
Querrey: The Samurai started at the L.A. Open when I got a wild card there in 2006. There's a core of seven or eight. They go shirtless with body paint. None of them play tennis, which is probably the best part. They don't know the etiquette. They bring a giant gong with them and bang on it if I have a big point. They make me laugh on the court and I think the fans love them. It's getting harder now because they're getting out of college now and getting internships.
SI.com: One lucky friend signed on as your intern July 1. How did that come about?
Querrey: His name is Dan Farrugia and he's a Cornell student who wants to be a sports and entertainment lawyer. He's ahead of schedule with his credits so he will spend the fall with me as well and still graduate on time. It was his idea back in February or March, and I thought it would be cool. We've been friends since the fifth grade and we have him booking hotels and flights, stringing rackets and getting credentials or tickets for family and friends. I haven't made him get coffee but he has turned in the laundry for me at 8 in the morning.