Sam Querrey is hoping to put together a strong showing at this year's… (Kristy Wigglesworth / Associated…)
Sam Querrey will pursue his third Farmers Classic title in four years when he plays his opening match Wednesday at UCLA's L.A. Tennis Center.
The 6-foot-6 serve-and-forehand specialist from Thousand Oaks, seeded second in the tournament, is ranked 55th by the ATP following a comeback from right elbow surgery last year. Querrey, 24, earlier this month participated in World Team Tennis following a semifinal finish in the pre-Wimbledon tournament at Queen's Club in London, and a grueling 5-hour 31-minute loss to Croatia's Marin Cilic in the third round at Wimbledon.
Querrey hopes to use his hometown stop in tennis' hard-court season as a springboard to greater success at the U.S. Open later this summer.
What have you taken from the Team Tennis experience?
"It's fun, to me, to be in the team experience. It's coed. There's not a lot of pressure, but you can use it as great preparation in five or six mini-sets. We talk about tennis, other guys on tour, our personal lives. It's a mixture of everything."
What makes playing at UCLA so comfortable for you?
"A big part is because I'm home, playing in front of all my friends and family. I have more pep in my step. I feel like I'm playing great, too. I took third in the Queen's Club, had the long Wimbledon match. Now it's the first hard-court tournament and a chance to keep things going."
If you win again here, what will be the key factors?
"With my serve and forehand. That's all I've been practicing. It's how I make a living. I'd say I get a little bit more out of that style on grass, the way the ball skips. But I think it's still 95% as effective on hard courts. And being 6-6, I have more leverage and reach. I'm pretty fast for my size, too, so I can cover a lot of ground with a fewer amount of steps."
What are the negatives of being so tall?
"As I get older, I feel the tendinitis in my knees. So I do a better job of icing and stretching. I've got a physio-trainer. I'm taking a more professional role in taking care of my body, and I'm feeling good every match because of it."
You've advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in your career. What keeps you from a deeper run, and are you capable of that?
"I'm really close. I might be ranked 55th, but I'm feeling like I'm in the top 25 and I feel like at any moment — starting with this U.S. Open — that I have a good chance. I know by the way I'm playing that if I just stick with it, I'm going to get that result with just a couple little things that can make the difference. Like when a match gets close, I need to play more aggressive rather than being hesitant. I believe if I go for it a little more, I'll be more confident going forward. That'll definitely happen in L.A. In the WTT, there's no deuce points. It's just a win point, if tied 40-40, so I made a point of telling myself, 'I'm going to hit my second-serve forehand as hard as I can.' I figure if I can be more aggressive than I normally am, my game will go to another level."
Did the Wimbledon marathon advance that type of strategy?
"Yes, it also let me know that I'm doing great physically by going side to side the way I was in the fifth set. I had him at 30-all seven times in the fifth. If I could've just stepped up and been more brave . . . it let me know that next time I need to do that."
With the way U.S. tennis players have struggled of late, and given that the two best Americans came from the courts of Compton, is the California youth tennis circuit doing enough to encourage and recruit strong, young players?
"That's not my job. My impression is, unlike the tennis countries where it's just soccer and tennis growing up, you can play so many other sports in the U.S. Our success in men's tennis comes in waves. There was Connors, McEnroe, then Sampras and Agassi, Roddick for a little bit, and now I hope the next one is me. It's a tough sport to start on the grass-roots level when compared to just needing a soccer ball or a basketball to play. With tennis, you need to buy a racket, the balls, rent a court. And with tennis, there's a little more to it than just being athletic. I hope we find a way. I want there to be another era of great American champions."