A win is a win against the player who will end the year No. 1 in the world — no matter what physical or mental state Novak Djokovic was in when he met the giant Californian here in front of a Wednesday afternoon crowd of 10,000 at the Bercy Palais Omnisports.
Querrey did exceptionally well to recover from a 6-0, 2-0 deficit to beat the Serb 0-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4. Djokovic shot out of the blocks like a man who knew he had limited gas in the tank — a fact he admitted afterward. The reasons are clearer now. After a bug laid him low over the weekend, Djokovic had more serious things on his mind when he flew to Belgrade on Tuesday to see his father, who is in the hospital recovering from a respiratory problem.
Djokovic refused to state flatly that this was so, saying, “It’s private and I’d like to keep it that way. I usually don’t like making excuses. Sam played very well, served very well. I traveled a lot. Let’s call it that way even though I was here.”
But reports from Belgrade confirmed that Djokovic was there very briefly and that his father is expected out of the hospital soon.
After he lost the first eight games of the match, Querrey was embarrassed.
“I walked over to where my physio Casey and my girlfriend were sitting and I said, ‘I hope I can get two games in this set,” Querrey said, smiling. “Once I got two games I kind of settled down. I was like, ‘OK, that’s all I want.’ But then I got rolling and got more confidence and started serving better and being a little more aggressive.”
Querrey slammed down 10 aces in the second set and ended up with a total of 18. But most importantly, he came up with three of them on consecutive break points at 4-3 in the third set as Djokovic made a last-gasp effort to get back into the match. In the end, Querrey saved five break points in that game.
“Yeah, I thought I served amazing, especially on big points,” Querrey said. “Especially in the 4-3 game. If he won that game, he would have maybe picked up a little more energy and stepped it up a little bit. Fortunately, I got out of it and played a good game to serve it out.”
But it was not just the serve. Querrey, who had said the day before how he intended to go for his shots more, started to unleash some seriously big forehands which caught even Djokovic, one of the game’s great movers, a little flat-footed at times.
Djokovic put things in perspective when he said, “The players have played so many matches by this time of year and are obviously struggling to be fresh but you’re trying to find that last drop of strength, mental and physical, to play your best. These are big tournaments and there is definitely no compromising in trying to think of maybe skipping the event or playing less or, you know, saving energy in order to play well in London next week. So it was never the case for me. I tried all the way through to the end of this match but I had a better opponent and I move on.”
A 6-0, 2-0 score is not quite as devastating a deficit to have to turn around as 4-0 in soccer, but there was a strange coincidence here. On Tuesday in England, Arsenal turned around a 0-4 scoreline in a League Cup game against Reading to win it by a tennis score — 7-5 — in one of the most amazing soccer matches seen in the UK for years.
Arsenal plays in red shirts with white sleeves. Querrey was wearing a red shirt with white sleeves. Make of it what you will.
John Isner’s slim hopes of qualifying for the eight-man ATP Finals field in London were blown away by French lefthander Michael Llodra, who beat the 14th-ranked American 6-4, 7-6 (5).
Isner never really recovered from losing his first service game of the match despite leading 5-2 in the tie break. But Llodra, roared on by the crowd, came up with two beautiful backhand cross-court passes to get level and then, on match point, hit the line with a winning drive.
"I wasn’t going for the ball," said Isner afterwards. "I had three rallies that I controlled and missed short forehands. It’s lack of confidence, I suppose. I’ve had some good moments this year but overall it should have been better."
With Djokovic out, the draw has opened up for Andy Murray, who has never won this ATP Masters1000 title. He scored a workmanlike 7-5, 6-4 victory over the experienced Frenchman Paul-Henro Mathieu but perhaps his next opponent will not be as easy as he seems.
Polish newcomer Jerzy Janowicz is 6-foot-8 and has already taken out Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber and Croatia’s Marin Cilic in straight sets. Murray will need to return well.