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Confident Querrey is moving on

Thousand Oaks resident defeats Karlovic to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open. Next up is top-ranked Nadal. Fish knocks out Blake.

August 31, 2008|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

NEW YORK -- Opening on tennis Broadway, here's Sam Querrey, the Thousand Oaks skyscraper with the normal American childhood and a first Grand Slam second-week berth.

He's 20, accruing wisdom, oozing confidence and booked to the fourth round of the U.S. Open after he wiped out fellow redwood and 14th-ranked Ivo Karlovic of Croatia on Saturday, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-2, then showed a working knowledge of network television.

"You know, I made the CBS weekend," he cracked.

Bright lights will track him in the next round as he stands opposite Rafael Nadal, the king of the world, from whom Querrey won a set in Cincinnati in 2006 in a match of which Querrey said, "Like the main thing from that match I remember, I was playing at 2 and I knew ESPN went on the air at 3. I wanted to make it to 3 to get some ESPN time, which I did."

Now he's advancing with stars such as Venus Williams, who destroyed a perfectly swell player named Alona Bondarenko, 6-2, 6-1, then said, "Oh, I think I'm definitely at my best now. I think I understand the game more." Then there's Serena Williams, who thrashed Ai Sugiyama, also 6-2, 6-1, then said, "I'm definitely not at my best, but I hope to get there."

There's Nadal, 41-1 since May after his 6-4, 6-3, 6-0 win over Viktor Troicki, and there's the contending No. 6 Scot Andy Murray, who just as at Wimbledon extracted a gem from a chasm in a 6-7 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-3 win over Jurgen Melzer of Austria. And then there's Mardy Fish, who in a night match knocked out his good friend, ninth-seeded James Blake, who's always a New York favorite, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (4).

To join them, the 6-foot-6 Querrey had to win a Leverage Bowl with the 6-foot-10 Karlovic, and win he did while impressing with a serve Karlovic ranked just behind Andy Roddick's, plus a newfound ruthlessness of which Querrey said, "You just kind of put your foot down a little and show them that you're really out there to win and, you know, that's big."

The resulting whoosh upward will take him to at least No. 45, with Karlovic himself forecasting a top-10 landing among fellow Americans Roddick and Blake.

That's all from a guy who went to Thousand Oaks High attending his sister's volleyball matches, attending football games, having high school friends and practicing up the street from his house at a club taking lessons plus clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Now he's in the advanced honing process among the sharks, exploring such nuances as focusing heavily on the first two points of service games.

"I kind of thought he was about ready to break through, and he looks to me like he might be getting the confidence," his Thousand Oaks coach, Dave Assorson, said by telephone from California. "You win three rounds of the U.S. Open and you start getting the confidence you can beat these guys."

The backhand, Querrey said, "is 10 times better. My transition game, coming to the net and being aggressive, is better than it used to be." Then it all winds back to that serve, which received a genuine hosanna when Karlovic, asked to list its attributes, began, "His height."

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Today's featured matches

* Roger Federer, Switzerland (2), vs. Radek Stepanek, Czech Republic (30) -- Federer's wry humor seems to have returned from dormancy in recent news conferences. This could be scientific proof that it's easier to wink from the No. 2 spot than from No. 1.

* Jelena Jankovic, Serbia (2), vs. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark (18) -- The surging Wozniacki this month has beaten players ranked 10, 12, 19, 13, 18, 11 and 14. At this rate, she could add to the Danish giddiness over that Lightweight Men's four rowing gold medal.

* Andy Roddick, United States (8), vs. Andreas Seppi, Italy (31) -- After Roddick rallied to beat Ernests Gulbis on Friday night at 1:35 a.m. Eastern time, he gave partial credit to a greater maturity from having turned 26 at midnight. This helps explain why he's seeded No. 1 in the wit brackets.

* Novak Djokovic, Serbia (3), vs. Marin Cilic, Croatia (24) -- Djokovic made 13 unforced errors in three sets in his previous match. Changeovers should have featured not blaring dance music but a string quartet.

* Elena Dementieva, Russia (6), vs. Li Na, China (36) -- The confident Olympic champion, still trying to find a Grand Slam title somewhere at 26, begins the thorny part of her path with a rugged fourth-round task.

* Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France (19), vs. Tommy Robredo, Spain (15) -- The Australian Open finalist Tsonga chased a drop shot Friday night, couldn't get it, hopped over the net, ran to the other side of the court and slapped hands with opponent Carlos Moya. Yeah, it's good to have him back.

-- Chuck Culpepper

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