Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Kid on the Block

by Savannah

The United States tennis establishment has been pushing Sam Querrey for some time now. He got my attention when he commented that if he lost he could just go out and drive his mother's Porsche. I've called him Kid Porsche ever since then.

Due to James Blake's requested pass on the semi final Davis Cup tie in Madrid and a few good matches on clay Sam Querrey will be a singles player next weekend, his debut on the American Davis Cup team. Here, in it's entirety, is Sam's press conference from 9/12/2008.

September 12, 2008
Sam Querrey

TIM CURRY: Thanks, everyone, for joining us today for our media conference call with Sam Querrey, who is scheduled to make his U.S. Davis Cup debut next week in Madrid when the reigning champion U.S. team meets Spain in the semifinals on a temporary red clay tennis court built inside a bullfighting ring that will host about 21,000 fans each day. Sam will be the 135th member of the U.S. Davis Cup team in the competition's 108-year history and the first U.S. Davis Cup rookie since February 2004, when Robby Ginepri played in the Davis Cup first round against Austria in Uncasville, Connecticut. U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe has used the same lineup - Andy Roddick, James Blake and Bob and Mike Bryan - for the team's previous 10 Davis Cup ties dating back to the World Group playoff at Belgium in September 2005, when Sam actually was a practice partner for the first time. Sam was also a Davis Cup practice partner for the 2006 quarterfinals in Rancho Mirage, California, and was an alternate at last year's quarterfinals when Andy Roddick's availability was in question after he suffered a hamstring injury five days before the tie in Miami. We'll now up the call for questions.

Q. Sam, are you nervous?
SAM QUERREY: A little bit. Not a lot right now. But I think when I get there and actually walk out on the court for my first time, whether that's introduced or that's actually like playing my first match, I think I will get a little nervous then, yeah.

Q. How do you feel about playing your first official tie for the team on clay? It's obviously a tough situation, but it's also a pretty good situation because it's probably not going to get any more intense than it will be. What are you expecting of yourself?
SAM QUERREY: You know, yeah, it's not the easiest tie to just kind of start off your Davis Cup career with. You know, I would probably prefer a home tie on hard court. To jump in there against Spain in the semifinals, in a way it's a nice introduction to the Davis Cup. It will be tough.
But I'm sure the crowd will be into it. Hopefully I can have a good week of practice when we get there and put up a good showing and possibly win some matches.

Q. Could you talk about the circumstances when you found out that you had made it. Did Patrick call you, speak to you in person?
SAM QUERREY: Yeah, Patrick had called me - I'm trying to think - I think it was last Saturday. He told me, you know, James won't be going to Davis Cup, to be ready, you might be our guy. I'll let you know the next couple days.
For a day and a half or so I knew that I might be going. I kind of felt like a pitcher in the bullpen waiting to get a call from the coach.
I believe it was Monday morning, Patrick called me and said that James was out and you're our guy, get ready to go.

What do you take out of your experience at the Open, particularly your match against Rafa?
SAM QUERREY: You know, just got to play with that confidence. I was doing a great job that week of taking care of my body with stretching, massages, plenty of water and good food. I'm definitely going to have to keep that up to play through five-set matches on clay.
I played well against Rafa. I played him twice now. I've taken sets off him in both matches. I've got some confidence. I mean, both those matches were on hard court. Clay might be a different story. I definitely got the confidence I can play with him and possibly beat him.

Your practice as a Davis Cup practice partner, how has that prepared you for this tie?
SAM QUERREY: That's been a big help. I kind of felt how the Davis Cup atmosphere sort of the week prior to the actual matches kind of works. You know, I'm not walking in there not knowing anything. At least I know how everything works, a little bit of what to expect.

Could you tell me about your earliest Davis Cup memory. Was there one particular match or tie that really captured your attention as a kid?
SAM QUERREY: Yeah, actually before I was a Davis Cup practice partner in 2005, the only Davis Cup match that I watched was a match that I went to. I can't remember the year, but it was in Las Vegas probably between 1995, '96 or '97. I watched Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi play on the team at Caesar's Palace. That was kind of the first Davis Cup experience I had, and really the only one. So that's kind of the one that I remember, I guess.
TIM CURRY: That was the '95 semis that you saw.
SAM QUERREY: I just moved to Vegas. I remember I watched that one.

Evaluate your clay court game. The altitude there is going to be pretty good, so the ball is going to be flying a little. What do you think you need to do well against anybody you play on that surface?
SAM QUERREY: I'm definitely going to have to serve well to stay with those guys. They're the best clay-courters in the world. I'm not going to want just to every point have a 50-ball rally. I'm going to have to get some free points on my serve. That will be key for me.
You know, just got to stay in the match and not get flustered or bothered by the whole situation of it being Davis Cup, an away match with all the fans.

Q. Could you give me your thoughts on the Spanish team, what you're particularly concerned about with that team? Obviously there's one player who grabs everyone's attention, but a pretty strong team all around, as well.
SAM QUERREY: You know, they're almost a country that could put out two very good Davis Cup teams, and both teams could possibly have a chance to win the tie with Nadal, Ferrer, Almagro, Verdasco, López. You could just go down the list. You just can't prepare for Nadal and Ferrer; you got to be ready for potentially one of six guys.
So you really need to work on everything in the practice week leading up. You can't just work on playing Nadal, hitting the ball cross-court to a guy's backhand all day. You have to be ready for Almagro, be ready for the speed of Ferrer, possibly López in this altitude if they want a big serve and volleyer in there. You've got to be mentally ready to play anyone out there.

Q. How busy a schedule do you have planned through the rest of the year? I know you had an ambitious workout schedule. Are you going to up that during the off-season?
SAM QUERREY: After Madrid, with the Davis Cup, I'm planning on playing Beijing and Tokyo most likely, then coming home, and playing Lyon and Paris. Somewhat temporary, but that's kind of the schedule there.
Then, yeah, I definitely want to in November and December get an intense workout regimen going. I think I really need that to take my game to the next level, to get in the top 20. Hopefully I can get something together in regards to that.

This is a very close-knit team that's been together for a long time. Did you have any sort of trepidations about breaking that up? Obviously James wasn't fit to play. Is that a concern of yours or do you feel you have a good comfort level with the guys?
SAM QUERREY: Yeah, it's a little bit of a bummer with the team being the defending champion. You kind of want to give those four guys a shot to get their title back. But I'm close to Andy, Bob and Mike, Mardy, John Isner, Donald Young, every American player. Everyone's close. Everyone gets along. I don't think there's any hard feelings or anyone feels they don't belong. So, no, not really.

Q. I was wondering if you have maybe spoken to James or Andy or Bob or Mike about the upcoming tie?
SAM QUERREY: You know what, not really. I'm down here in Austin now practicing with Bob and Mike and Andy. We haven't really talked about it yet. Just maybe a few little things here and there, but nothing of importance.
You know, I'm sure we will once we get to Spain.

Q. What did Patrick tell you his expectations were for you?
SAM QUERREY: You know, I haven't really sat down and had like that talk with him. I've had a phone call with him. I think he expects me to go over there and put out a hundred percent effort, dive for balls if I have to, show him and everyone else how much I want to win, how much of an honor it is to play for my country.
You know, I think he expects that from all his players.

Q. When was your first time you played on a clay court? I imagine you didn't play very much as a junior growing up in the U.S. How comfortable are you on the surface?
SAM QUERREY: First time I played on it, it was during the boys 14-and-under national clay courts in Florida. So that was the first time. But I also played on it in the 16s and 18s.
I mean, before I was 18, I only played on clay a few times. I was always a hard-court guy growing up in California. Didn't have a lot of opportunity to play on clay.
But my game feels good on clay. I'm a tall guy. When the ball gets up, it's getting up into my shoulders, in my strike zone, I don't mind that. I still feel like I can get my serve through the court. You know, I'm not a great slider or anything on clay, but I definitely feel comfortable moving on it.
Overall, I'm very confident and I feel very good. I think my game suits the clay court.

Q. How do you think it will feel to compete for your country and how is it different for you being on a team as opposed to what you normally do week in and week out?
SAM QUERREY: I mean, yeah, I guess I can only explain to you what I think it will be like.
I think it will be something, you know, where deep down you'll know maybe you got to run down an extra ball, maybe you got to put out a better effort because you're not just playing for yourself, you're playing for your country. You've got the team there watching. You know, you're there to prove something and show the world and really your country how much you want to win and how much you want to get this title for them.
It's different just 'cause you're playing for everyone; you're not just playing for yourself. If I'm playing for myself, if I want to give up on a ball or a point, you can. I don't have to think about it. But if I do that there, you've got the team and really all of America. It's not just yourself out there; you're playing for everyone.

Did you play any team sports coming up?
SAM QUERREY: Yeah, I played freshman year of high school football, basketball, baseball, soccer, pretty much everything.

Do you like the team aspect?
SAM QUERREY: Love it, yeah. You know, it's not something we do all the time. When you get a chance to do it, it's a joy. If tennis can somehow throw in some more team events, I would be all for that.
TIM CURRY: Talk about your Olympic experience, Sam, representing your country earlier this summer. Will you tap in on any of that for Davis Cup?
SAM QUERREY: Yeah, that is a nice thing I did get to experience the Olympics this summer, be a part of that. I know what it feels like to kind of play for your country. We were over there in Beijing kind of as a team, similar to what the Davis Cup will be like. I kind of got a small dose of what the Davis Cup is like. I think hopefully some of that will rub off.
I somewhat know the feeling of what it feels like to play for your country rather than yourself. I think a little bit of that experience will help me out there.

Do you know who the practice partners and players are yet on this squad? How do you plan to torment them?
SAM QUERREY: From what I've heard of the practice partners, I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I believe it's Scoville Jenkins, Austin Krajicek, and David Martin.
TIM CURRY: That's correct.
SAM QUERREY: I have no idea how we're going to torment them. I'm probably not going to be the guy to come up with the plan, being that I'm kind of a rookie on the team. I don't know. Every tie so far, we've had some fun with everyone. So I'm sure that will be a better question to ask post tie.

Q. What was the worst trick played on you when you were a practice partner?
SAM QUERREY: This was in Palm Springs. I think it was Andy and James, Bob and Mike had set up a karaoke machine in the lobby of the hotel. A bus full of 200 or so USTA staff members pulled up in front of the lobby and I had to sing karaoke in front of them all.
TIM CURRY: Sam, we appreciate your time as you prepare for the trip to Spain. Also I want to make note that all three days of coverage will be live on Versus at 12 p.m. eastern Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tennis channel will continue its Davis Cup prime time tradition, re-airing matches each night at 8 p.m. eastern time. Thanks, everyone, for joining our call.

More Davis Cup News
"Kourtin' Karen" will be filing Davis Cup reports from Madrid, Spain starting Thursday. You'll be able to link to them from this blog. I can't wait!

No comments: