Dan Farrugia, a Cornell student majoring in industrial and labor relations, aspires to a career in sports law. So as he finished his junior year, he appealed to his buddy Sam Querrey for a summer internship, figuring it would be more germane to his future profession than lifeguarding or scooping ice cream. Would Querrey, a rising player on the ATP Tour, want to hire an aide-de-camp to do everything from arranging his travel to running his blog? "Sam said 'Sure' and offered me a salary of three percent of his prize money," says Farrugia, 20. "I would have done it for free, just for the chance to see sports from the inside."
Apart from being one of the coolest summer jobs on record, Farrugia's gig has been pretty lucrative. Querrey is emerging as the answer to the eternal tennis query, Who will be the next U.S. star? Through Sunday the 6'6" Californian had gone 16--5 in matches since Wimbledon, winning a title in Los Angeles and reaching the finals in Newport, R.I., and Indianapolis. After upsetting Andy Roddick last week to reach the fourth round in Cincinnati (where he lost to Lleyton Hewitt), Querrey, 21, attained a career-high ranking of 26 and was in a position to win the summer U.S. Open Series with a good showing at this week's tournament in New Haven, Conn. Plus, since Wimbledon, he has won nearly $235,250. (Intern's take: $7,057.50.) Coincidence? "It's been great to have someone do the dirty work—getting rackets strung, making reservations—but it's really been great just having someone to hang out with," Querrey says. "It's definitely working out for both of us."
Querrey's summer breakthrough wasn't altogether unexpected, armed as he is with a serve that regularly surpasses 125 mph and a weapons-caliber forehand. But he's also improved his fitness and conditioning, and as a result he plays more patiently and uses his power more judiciously. "He's not playing himself out of points quite as much," says Roddick. "He's got a better sense of when to pull the trigger."
As Querrey has climbed the charts, he's also spawned the sport's loudest cheering section. One of Farrugia's duties at tournaments is to organize the Samurai, a band of fans dressed in Karate Kid outfits who cheer and chant and bang gongs during Querrey's matches, straddling the line between spirited and obnoxious. At the Indy event, five members painted their chests to read GO SAM but at one point rearranged themselves to spell MO GAS.
The Samurai will be heard from at the U.S. Open, where Querrey will be seeded for the first time. As for Farrugia, he plans to extend his internship through the fall and finish college in the spring. He'll accompany Querrey to Bangkok, Beijing and several European cities on the fall circuit. Says Querrey, "I'm playing too well to cut him loose now."
Now on SI.com
Daily team coverage of the 2009 U.S. Open begins Aug. 30 at SI.com/bonus