Fresh off a near-upset of Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the U.S. Open, 20-year-old Sam Querrey will get another shot at the world No. 1 in his opening match at the Davis Cup semifinals tomorrow. The odds aren't in his favor. For one, the match will be played on clay, a surface on which Nadal is rarely challenged, much less beat. What's more, it'll be played in front of a crowd likely comprised of more than 20,000 Spaniards. But don't count out "The Next Great American Hope." Here, he considers his chances.
Mag.com: After playing Nadal in the fourth round of the U.S. Open (6-2, 5-7, 7-6, 6-3), what are your thoughts on drawing him in the semifinals?
Querrey: I played him a couple weeks ago and lost, but I feel like I played really well. I got a little confidence. But this one we'll play on clay, and he's arguably the best clay-court play ever, so it will be a challenge.
You've been labeled "The Next Great American Hope" for a while now, and are currently ranked No. 39 in the world, has your career progressed as you expected?
I'm definitely taking the path that, realistically, I thought I could be on. Hopefully, I'll keep getting better until the day I retire. Next year, I hope to climb into the top 10. People give me that title, but I don't ever think about it. There hasn't been a day when I think about "The Next Great American Hope." If after everything, I'm No. 1 and I win 25 majors and become the best player ever, that's fine. It would definitely be great to one day be No. 1 and be in contention for a Slam like Sampras and Agassi were. But if this is the highest ranking I get, I know that I've played hard and played my best.
Any nerves about playing in your first Davis Cup?
I've come along as a practice partner four or five times. I know the routine. It's nothing new. That's kind of the nice thing—I know how everything works. But it's definitely an honor, a thrill. Every other tournament, if you're pissed off, you might not try for a game. Here, you're playing for yourself, your teammates, your country. You have an obligation to dive for every ball if you have to.
Talk about your fan club, the Samurais.
It's awesome. It's the best group of friends in the world. Three of them flew out to New York for the day to watch that match (against Nadal). It makes it exciting. It makes it fun for me to see them in the crowd. Every time I see them after a match, people come up to me about them. They're the celebrities in the stands. I love it; everyone in the crowd loves it.
Taking a set off Nadal, is that just the start?
I've taken sets off him twice before. At the Open, the other sets I lost were a tie-breaker and the other was 6-4. I feel my game matches well against him. I feel I can possibly beat him. Maybe if I get those few points instead of him, maybe I get that match.
How daunting is Nadal on clay? Is it like playing the Packers at Lambeau Field in December in the snow? Like playing the Celtics at the Boston Garden?
It's definitely got to favor him. He's No. 1. We're playing in a bull-fighting arena. And there will be 25,000 Spaniards cheering for him. They'll clap and cheer when I miss easy shots. But this is fun. This is a good way to start it out.