Commentary

Sam Querrey needed win over Raonic

Updated: June 29, 2012, 8:31 PM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- A year ago, Sam Querrey was convalescing at home in Las Vegas when his tennis peers converged on the All England Club.

He had established himself in the top 20 earlier that season and -- even after surgery on his aching right elbow -- he figured it wouldn't be long before he was back.

"You know, go deep in a couple of tournaments and my ranking will move back quickly," Querrey said Friday. "It's just not the case, as I think most people would learn with an injury. It can take a year or even longer for people to get back where they were."

It didn't happen that way. In fact, it didn't happen at all.

After missing three months, Querrey found himself ranked at No. 125 after he missed both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. In 2012, he has been climbing ever so slowly, cracking the top 100 with a win in the Sarasota, Fla., Challenger.

On Friday, the 24-year-old took the leap he's been looking forward to for a full year. He dazzled No. 21 seed Milos Raonic -- seen by many as the next big thing --- 6-7 (3), 7-6 (7), 7-6 (8), 6-4.

Querrey, who usually plays in the leisurely, dispassionate manner of a man walking his dog, was amped after he won the match on Court No. 1 with an ace down the middle.

"Kind of let it out there a little bit at the end," Querrey said. "Lately, I feel like I have been a little more vocal, little more showing that I just want it because it's been a year. This is definitely my biggest win in a long time. It was a big moment, a big court, and it feels great."

Oddly enough, both players won 153 points. But Querrey fashioned two breaks, to just one for Raonic. As expected, the two giants (Querrey is 6-foor-6 and Raonic an inch shorter) hit a combined 46 aces. But Raonic, who had 25 of them and leads all ATP players in aces this year, was effectively stymied by Querrey's return.

"I went out there expecting to get aced 30 times," Querrey said. "Just tried to stay positive. I feel like I do a decent job of returning the serve. I have a big wingspan, so it's not horrible for me."

The difference for Querrey these days is an aggressive attitude. In the early stages of his comeback, he didn't go after his serve because "I knew what that pain felt like." Once he survived the first serve against the 21-year-old Canadian, Querrey was content to keep the ball in play until he could find some semblance of an opening.

This is the kind of mindset he will take into Saturday's third-round match with No. 16 seed Marin Cilic. They have met twice before -- both times on British grass -- and both matches went to the limit; Cilic won in five sets here three years ago and again two weeks ago in a three-set match at Queen's Club.

Querrey is ranked No. 64 and, appropriately, has pulled himself back even with a 13-13 record this year. He can equal his best performance in a Slam by beating Cilic and advancing to the second week. It would also vault him back into the top 50. "No one wants to see Cilic in his draw," Querrey said. "I'm going to try to be a little more aggressive than usual."

Young Americans Sloane Stephens and Christina McHale have been rolling through the early stages of the Euro Slams. They won five matches between them in Paris and were 4-for-4 here before running into some heavy German artillery Friday.

Predictably, No. 15 seed Sabine Lisicki -- a semifinalist here a year ago -- defeated Stephens in her Wimbledon debut 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-2. McHale fell to No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-3.

Stephens, a19-year-old Floridian, had already beaten Lisicki last year, on clay. The youngest teenager in the WTA's top 100 probably should have beaten the German here. Stephens likely will agonize over the memory of leading Lisicki 5-2 in the first-set tiebreaker -- and then losing the last five points. She considered smashing her racket when a forehand service return sailed long but checked her swing on the baseline.

McHale, a 20-year-old from New Jersey, was never in her match against Kerber, who will now play unseeded Kim Clijsters in her final Wimbledon. Lisicki faces No. 1 seed Maria Sharapova.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.