Sam Querrey reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal of the year with a convincing 6-3, 7-6 (1) victory over Canada’s Milos Raonic on Thursday at the Paris Masters. That came after Andy Murray had made a shock exit, losing from match point up against the Polish qualifier Jerzy Janowicz 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-2.
Murray’s defeat means that, for the first time since 2006, none of the world’s current top four — who have dominated the men’s game for the past five years — will have reached the quarterfinals of a Masters 1000 event.
This time age and inexperience — both applicable in 2006 — had nothing to do with it. Injuries and top players concerned about going straight into the round robin format of the ATP World Finals in London starting on Monday have played their part. Previously there was a week off between the two events.
That is not to say Murray did not try against Janowicz. He dealt well with the Pole’s massive serve, unleashed way above his 6-foot-8 height, in the first set, and got himself in a position to win when he served for it at 5-4 in the second set. Then he dumped a couple of poor forehands into the net and Janowicz seized his chance. The American junior Denis Kudla will not need to be reminded of how well Janowicz can play. He lost to him 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 in the Wimbledon qualifying before Janowicz went on to reach the third round of the main draw, finally going down 7-5 in the fifth to Germany’s Florian Mayer.
Murray, who had beaten him in Davis Cup a few years back, was impressed. “He moves well; from the back of the court he moved really well,” he said. “He’s maybe a little bit more unpredictable than a few of those tall guys from the back of the court. He tried a lot of drop shots and went for winners when he was out of position, which the others don’t.”
The drop shots were surprising, both for the fact that the 21-year-old had the nerve to try them and also because most of them were successful – not easy against a man who is as quick as the Scot.
With Ivan Lendl not arriving in London until the weekend, Murray was left to mouth off all to himself. And from what he was mumbling at changeovers — mostly R-rated stuff — it was clear he was not happy about losing this match.
The fact that it turned out to be the third 2012 match that the US Open champion has lost from match point up — he had five against Novak Djokovic in Shanghai — must be of some concern.
“I’ll have to tighten up if I get those opportunities at the O2 and make sure I don’t let it happen again,” he said.
Janowicz became emotional in the press conference when he talked about lack of support from sponsors in Poland and how much his parents — both former pro volleyball players — had needed to sacrifice to keep him on the circuit. “I had problems in my life,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about this actually.” Presumably the $77,500 he has won so far will help redress the balance a little.
Janowicz will play Janko Tipsarevic next after the Serb virtually assured himself of a place in the ATP Finals by beating Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Querrey found himself playing Raonic on the second court here at the cavernous Omnipalais, a tight little arena with a low ceiling and seating for no more than a thousand spectators — a huge contrast to the 15,000 Center Court holds. But Querrey didn’t seem to mind.
“It played pretty much the same as the other court,” he said, looking as relaxed as ever. “I went for the big forehand whenever I got the chance and stabbed in a couple of returns. There are never going to be many rallies when we play.”
Querrey felt the match was not too dissimilar from the one they played at Wimbledon in the summer. Querrey won that one, too, and, once again, looked to be the better all-around player.
The American broke in the eighth game of the first set after he had put pressure on the Raonic serve for the first time in the match with a couple of cracking forehand winners. Then a backhand landed slap on the line at deuce and a deftly played backhand service return on break point confused Raonic so much that the tall Canadian put a half volley well wide.
A missed volley on the first point of the second set tie break sent Querrey on his way. “I was happy to see him miss that,” Querrey smiled. “After that I felt pretty confident just going for my serve.”
Querrey will now play Michael Llodra, the talented left-handed Parisian, who upset the No 7 seed Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-3 on a surface that he says is getting faster day by day. “That suits my game,” said Llodra. “I served very well today and I noticed del Potro had trouble passing me because of the low bounce.”
“It’s going to be a different kind of match,” said Querrey. “He plays a quick, skillful sort of game and serves well. But I’m feeling pretty good right now. Nothing to lose.”
Later Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who won this title in 2008 and was runner-up here last year, kept a big crowd happy by beating the Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 7-6, 7-6 and, by coincidence, ensured that Tipsarevic would join him in the eight-man ATP Finals. After Roanic lost, Alamgro was the only player left with a chance of overtaking those above him.