Perhaps it’s the new American plague.
Forget about the birds falling from the sky and the predictions of a biblical-esque plague that will soon end our days, I’m talking tennis here; something that has a real impact on our lives.
And in America, for gifted, tall men’s tennis players, times are bleak, plague-like bleak.
Day One of the Australian Open: America’s next great hope: 23-year-old Sam Querrey.
Australian Open photo
This is the American who’s supposed to rip the “top-ranked American” label from No. 8 Andy Roddick later this year. Don’t get me wrong, Querrey still can and might. But usually a good first step is winning the first round of majors, something Querrey has done just eight of the 18 times he has played in Grand Slam.
Eight for 18 in first-round matches. That stat alone is somewhat mind-boggling, but also consider this: As Querrey has risen in the rankings, from No. 174 in 2006 to No. 18 in 2011, his Slam performances have stayed relatively the same: In five of his last nine Major appearances, Querrey has failed to get past the entry bout.
Which brings us to this year’s Down Under Major: Querrey against Lukasz Kubot, the 28-year-old from Poland ranked No. 72 in the world. Although Kubot advanced to the fourth round of last year’s Australian Open courtesy a third-round withdraw from Mikhail Youzhny, he was hardly a formidable foe for Querrey.
Yet he was. That, and so much more, beating Querrey in five sets.
It is not so much that Querrey lost in the first round – upsets happen. But rather, how Querrey lost that is so regretful.
It was much like his fourth-round match of the 2010 U.S. Open, when Querrey had a chance to finish the match, ride the blustery winds of momentum and sail into his first-ever quarterfinals.
Instead, he lost.
Day One, Australian Open: Querrey battling Kubot. He seizes the momentum, snatches a 2-1 set advantage. The wind, however, is again a factor. And Querrey has not learned enough from this last win-aided defeat.
Rather predictably, Querrey lets Kubot back in the match and Kubot obliges, 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6.
Querrey’s U.S. Open quarterfinal loss to Stanislas Wawrinka: 6-7(9), 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4, 4-6.
The momentum was his. The match was there. But not that day. Not with the wind gusting and the pressure on.
And until Querrey can win those matches, those five-setters, those ones he usually doesn’t, we can forget about the top 10 talk. Heck, we can even forget about him passing Roddick, which would make for one lackluster 2011 for the top two American men.