Sam Querrey won his second career ATP title defeating unsung Carston Ball in the finals of the LA Tennis Open in 3 sets. Querrey finally did what he was trying to do in his last 3 tournaments in winning a title as he had got to the finals but lost in his last two. Ball, who is Australian but lives in Newport Beach, came out of nowhere and qualified for the tournament. He won his first ATP match here and made it all the way to the finals with perseverance and a good draw. Ball, 22 years old, was ranked #205 before the tournament but this 6’4” hard serving lefty showed promise and talent as he kept on winning. His father Syd was a former pro on the tour.
Querrey had his quarry of fans every match called Team Samurai. They were a bunch of young guys about Sam’s age with no shirts on and in Samuri headbands and body paint spelling out Samuri!
Querrey, now 21 years old, lives in Santa Monica and hails from Thousand Oaks so he had his local fan base. He showed more speed than ever before while his ground stokes were steady and his serve was on fire. I asked him during an interview how his conditioning was compared to the past and he told me he has been practicing sprints and speed drills which he showed off well this week. His toughest match was in the semi finals vs. #1 seed Tommy Haas but he handled him well and won in two sets. He also downed #4 seed Dudi Sela of Israel in the quarterfinals in straight sets. Querrey was about a foot taller than Sela but it was still a close match. Sela is moving up in the rankings and just helped Israel upset Germany in the Quarterfinals of the Davis Cup. Sam mentioned he had played Ball about ten times in the past but not for quite a few years when they were juniors. Querrey is gearing up for the next 3 weeks before the US Open in Washington DC, Montreal and Cincinnati where many top 20 players will be. Those are bigger ATP tournaments with 500 points up for grabs. Querrey is aiming to get deep into those tournaments and get a good ranking at the US Open this year. I spoke to Querrey after his second ATP Tour Victory and he told me " My game has been consistent this year and it shows in my improved rankings. I am looking forward to getting even better and cracking the Top 20." He was very confident yet modest when I was talking to him. Sam is very down to earth and a super nice guy.
Querrey is projected to move up to #29 in the world after his win and he is the leader in the US Open series point bonus challenge to date. He also has made it to 4 finals so far this year, which ranks behind only Nadal, Djokovic and Murray while equaling Federer.
Other highlights in this tournament included 4 great legends coming out and playing. On opening night, Marat Safin, who is playing his final year on the tour, took on former #1 Pete Sampras in a rematch of their 2000 US Open in which Safin upset Sampras. This match was very close as they each won a set before Safin beat Sampras in a Super Tiebreak third set.
I asked Sampras some questions during an interview with him. After watching him play Federer in late 2007 and seeing the shape he stays in, I asked him if he ever thought about accepting a wild card into ATP tournaments. His reply was “No, What I am doing now is fine for me. It keeps me in shape and I still enjoy playing every now and then. To really lay it out on the line against the guys today is not in me. I’ve been asked occasionally but the answer is No.” I also asked him about setting up an exhibition with Andre Agassi. He said, “ We are set up to play one in Macau later this year. I hear he is going to play a little bit. I’d love to play against Andre. It is a great ticket to come watch both of us and hopefully we can do some more next year. I’m open to it so we will have to see if Andre is into it.” After watching Pete play vs. Safin, I know he could compete still at this level but his heart and effort are not into it even though his talent is.
The other legends to play a round robin expo were Stephan Edberg, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. In my opinion, these were by far the most entertaining matches of the tournament. There was high quality tennis from these former stars yet each match was very relaxed and filled with comedy. My favorite moment was when Courier ended up giving his racket to a ball boy to play a couple points against Chang, which he ended up winning the second one and the game while Courier took his position as ball boy in the corner. The tournament was hurting for top name players and nobody in the Top 20 made it this year, which hurt the ticket sales and crowds.
The Bryan Brothers took home another doubles title without much of a fight. They snapped an 8-tournament streak to claim their 4th LA title since their first one in 2001. The 31-year-old twins are 3 tournament victories away from moving into second place and seven away for the most all time tournament wins held by Woodbridge –Woodforde of Australia. I interviewed them during the tournament about their chances of that record and outlook for the future. They replied "We are happy being as healthy as we are and playing the game we love. We would love to win more grand slams and help the US Team in the Davis Cup. If the other records happen, that would be great but we would like to stay competitive and at the top of the double’s ranking for as long as we can."
More info and all the results for the 2009 tournament at www.latennisopen.com