WHAT HAPPENED: Unseeded American Sam Querrey used his trademark one-two punch of booming serve and penetrating forehand to deny an upset bid, as the world No. 52 edged Maximo Gonzalez, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, on Day 2 in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“It’s always tough in the first round. I’m happy to get through because Maximo played great and it’s hot out here,” said Querrey, who finished the match with 30 aces and 66 winners, compared to Gonzalez’s two aces and 32 winners. “Once I broke in the fifth set, I just focused on my serve game. It worked in the end.”
The 31-year-old Argentine was playing his first hard-court match of the season, and one might wonder why. His aggressive baseline game is well suited to the surface, which he demonstrated by giving his 26-year Californian opponent all he could handle.
Querrey started strong, breaking in the fifth game with the help of a delicately placed topspin overhead that Gonzalez could only watch fall in. The 6-foot-6 right-hander consolidated his lead to 5-2 with four consecutive aces, and then broke Gonzalez to capture the first set.
After serving a 133-mile-per-hour ace to open the second set, a fan challenged, “Fifty bucks says you can’t do that again!” Querrey replied with a 131-mile-per-hour ace, causing another fan to shout, “Pay up!”
For Querrey, however, the levity ended there, as he was broken one double fault and three errors later. He saved a set point at 3-5, and two more on Gonzalez’s serve at 5-4, before he succumbed by sailing a forehand wide.
Querrey saved four break points at 1-1 and rolled to a 4-1 lead, closing out the third set at 6-4. He seemed to tire in the fourth, dropping that set by the same score, but reasserted his game in the final stanza to close out the match in 2 hours, 53 minutes.
WHAT IT MEANS: Querrey is struggling to reclaim his career-high No. 17 ranking in 2011, which slipped following a series of injuries and loss of motivation following a broken engagement last summer. He next faces No. 28 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, whom he upset en route to the semifinals at the Winston-Salem Open a week ago.
So far this season, Gonzalez has played 17 events on his preferred clay surface, winning three Challengers and fighting through qualifying to reach his first ATP World Tour semifinal at Kitzbuhel, where he lost to David Goffin. But he has an affinity for the US Open, citing his first-round exit to Roger Federer on Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2008 as his best tennis memory. He has a 2-5 record here, upsetting No. 14 ranked Jerzy Janowicz as a qualifier last year and coming back from two sets down against Karol Beck in 2009.
THE QUESTION: With his win over Gonzalez, Querrey equals his second-round result in 2013. Will the towering American produce a hat trick by reaching the fourth round, as he did in 2008 and 2010?