In a clash of the giants in the last match on Arthur Ashe, 6’6 Sam Querrey, the 17th seed, takes on 6’8 Kevin Anderson of South Africa. Both have enjoyed fine years and have played well throughout the North American hard court swing. As it heads towards its climax, the rewards are growing ever greater and the pressure is ratcheting up. Will Querrey keep the flag flying for America or will Anderson become the first South African to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since 2003?
Querrey and Anderson have met 14 times so far in their careers, with Querrey edging the head-to-head 8-6. It was the American that won their first meeting nine years ago in the final of the now defunct Las Vegas Open. In fact, the American won their first three meetings. Anderson finally got his first win in 2010 in Toronto, defeating Querrey in a hard fought three set match. Thereafter the rivalry became fairly even, with neither player able to carve out a dominant lead in the head-to-head. It should, therefore, be no surprise that they have split their two meetings this year. Querrey took the first in the fourth round at The Championships, edging a five-setter 5-7 7-6 6-3 6-7 6-3. Anderson got his revenge in Montreal, defeating a fatigued looking Querrey for the loss of just five games.
In terms of experience, the two are well matched. Anderson is the elder man by two years but turned pro a year later than Querrey after playing college tennis. The South African has only won three titles to Querrey’s 10 but, unlike the American, has been ranked in the world’s top 10. Anderson has 262 match wins to Querrey’s 315. Where the American arguably has a key advantage is that Anderson lost his only Grand Slam quarter-final while Querrey made the last four of Wimbledon in July.
Path to the quarterfinals
Querrey, the 17th seed, was originally slated to begin against his countryman Tim Smyczek, but Andy Murray’s late withdrawal saw him face Gilles Simon instead. The Frenchman has been ranked as high as sixth in the world, but his best tennis seems to be behind him and he was no match for Querrey. The American came through 6-4 6-3 6-4. Querrey next came up against Israel’s Dudi Sela. The diminutive Sela is a hard worker and fine ball striker but was undone by Querrey’s power, falling 4-6 1-6 4-6. Querrey then faced Radu Albot of Moldova, a name few expected to see in the third round. Albot caused an even greater stir by taking the first set.
But an early Querrey break in the second set the tone for the rest of the match as his groundstrokes began to find their mark. Querrey won through comfortably 4-6 6-2 6-4 6-4. The American’s fourth round opponent was the German serve-volleyer Mischa Zverev, elder brother to Alexander. Zverev can be an extremely tough opponent at times, as Andy Murray found out in the fourth round in Melbourne. But the German appeared troubled by a shoulder problem whilst Querrey was in full flow. The result was a dominant Querrey win as he dropped just five games to reach his first US Open quarter-final.
Anderson began his US Open against the American qualifier JC Aragone. Aragone had come through three tough three-setters to reach the main draw but against Anderson, he was outclassed. The South African was a comfortable 6-3 6-3 6-1 winner. Anderson next faced former French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis has enjoyed something of a resurgence this year after a troubled period but could not trouble Anderson who won in straight sets.
Borna Coric, the conqueror of Alexander Zverev in the second round, was Anderson’s third round opponent. The Croatian was in superb form when he defeated the German fourth seed, but was far from that level against Anderson. He fell 4-6 3-6 6-2 to send the South African into the fourth round. There he faced a surprisingly tough test against clay court specialist Paolo Lorenzi. Anderson took the first two sets and looked in charge, but Lorenzi won the third in a tie break to threaten a fightback. Anderson, however, refocused and saw out the win in four.
How do they match up?
Unsurprisingly for two such big men, their major weapons are their serves. But it would be wrong to view them as being limited to relying on big serves. Both men are solid from the baseline and can hit big groundstrokes from either wing. Querrey’s backhand has been particularly good this tournament. He was striking it as cleanly as he ever has against both Albot and Zverev. Anderson too has a fine backhand although he is more comfortable dictating with his forehand. Neither man, however, is a great mover. It will be interesting to see how each man attempts to exploit this weakness.
One particularly important part of this match will be second serve returns. Against such a big server, neither man will be able to expect to have much joy against the first serve. This will make their approach to second serve returns key. The choice whether to hit aggressively and run the risk of missing will have to be weighed against trying to ensure the return is made but possibly being too conservative. It will also be interesting to see how the server reacts to the receivers returning pattern.
Anderson has had an excellent tournament and his comeback from injury continues to impress but Querrey’s been playing some of the best tennis on tour. The American is 10th in the Race to London which is a mark of just how well he’s been playing. And he should have too much for Anderson just as he did at Wimbledon, particularly backed by the home crowd. Querrey in four tight sets.
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