Sam Querrey and John Isner almost always tower over their rivals because of their height. But that does not mean America’s top two male tennis players always win. But Saturday they did.
On a hot and humid day at the Sony Open, Querrey who stands 6 feet 6, defeated Poland’s Lukasz Kubot, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, while Isner, 6-9, eventually overcame Croatia’s Ivan Dodig, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6.
For Querrey, the newly ranked American No. 1, it was just a question of settling into his stride against Kubot, who had beaten him in five sets in their only previous meeting, at the Australian Open in 2011. Querrey, a succinct talker, did not waste time summing up the match.
“Started out a little slow,” Querrey said. “But after that felt pretty good in the second and third sets. Served big, hit my forehand well. I was pretty happy.”
Off court, Querrey is pretty happy, too, as he has just gotten engaged to Emily McPherson. His only problem, it seems, is sleeping. The Ultra Music Festival is in full swing in downtown Miami.
“I could hear the bass, and the strobe lights shine into my hotel room, so it’s hard to sleep,” he said. “I think every hotel on Brickell Avenue is facing the same problem.”
Isner tends to fret about life more than Querrey but, conversely, has no problem sleeping. “I could sleep through a train wreck,” he replied when asked about the distractions.
But Isner did have a problem on court, and it was spelled out when the scoreboard said he was trailing the big-hitting Dodig by a set and 3-1 in the second set.
“I tried to stay positive,” said Isner, who has been searching for form and confidence recently. “I told myself it can’t get much worse than it was. I was able to turn it around once I got even in the second set. I started moving my feet better and getting to the balls in time, whereas before I was just flailing at the ball and everything was missing. I was missing everything. But once I got that little spark, it gave me a little extra energy and it went from there.”
It still wasn’t totally straightforward, however. Dodig broke Isner’s serve in the third and served for the match at 6-5. A corrected call gave Isner the little piece of luck he needed and, once he was in the tiebreak, he was in familiar waters.
“I’m confident in tiebreakers,” he said. “I have certainly played a lot of them. With my game, my margins are thin. Novak Djokovic won 6-1, 6-0 last night. I’m never going to do that. I’m not going to break serve as much as he does. But I think tiebreakers normally favor the guy with the big serve, which I have.”
It was a strange match in that the stats were almost contradictory.
“It was actually unlike a lot of my matches,” Isner said. “I saw the stats coming off court. I think I served like 76 percent first serves and like 27 aces and zero double faults yet I lost my serve four times. That’s negative. But it’s a positive that I lost my serve four times and was still able to win the match.”
Isner’s next opponent will be another Croat, Marin Cilic, the No. 9 seed, who has a good record against Americans. Isner will just have to stay positive and serve big.