Meet Sam Querrey: The Awkward, Quirky American Who Upset Novak Djokovic

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2016

Sam Querrey hits a backhand during his upset win over Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2016.
Sam Querrey hits a backhand during his upset win over Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2016.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Until Saturday, Sam Querrey's most notable television appearance was as a bachelor on Bravo's The Millionaire Matchmaker.

But Querrey upset Novak Djokovic in the third round of Wimbledon 2016, one-upping his time on the reality show. The win ended Djokovic's bid to become the first man to complete the calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.

It's one of the most stunning upsets in recent tennis history. It's certainly the highlight of Querrey's 11-year career. However, there have been many memorable moments in Querrey's tennis odyssey.

He is a lanky 6'6" guy with a booming serve and a rocket forehand that often misfires. He reached a career-high No. 17 on the ATP Tour in 2011. He's beaten top-ranked players before, but never in such a dramatic fashion on as big a stage.

"It's incredible, especially to do it here at Wimbledon. I'm just so ecstatic," said Querrey, in an interview broadcast on ESPN.

Fun-loving, Querrey comes across as awkward and quirky. He's a talented athlete who has seen his tennis status go from being possibly the next Andy Roddick to "that guy behind John Isner."

Now he's the ATP's version of Roberta Vinci, the woman who upset Serena Williams at the 2015 U.S. Open thus ending a run at a calendar Slam.

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Sam Querrey's "Samurai" fan club at an ATP match in Los Angeles in 2008.
Sam Querrey's "Samurai" fan club at an ATP match in Los Angeles in 2008.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Like Vinci, Querrey is the giant killer everyone wants to get to know.

His golly-gee looks sometimes seem at odds with his status as a professional tennis player who travels the world to earn a living.

He's spent much of his career in the ATP's Top 50 and a considerable time in the Top 20. He has a fan club. Yet, he's not a household name. Well, at least he wasn't before Saturday.

Querrey grew up in California and attended Thousand Oaks High School. Some of his high school friends started the "Samurai Club." Members of the fan club attended Querrey's matches, shirtless and wearing headbands similar to those worn by Samurais. Sometimes they spelled out Samurai or Sam on their bare chests.

Soon, people started calling Querrey "Samurai Sam."

"Japanese warrior" is not the first thing you think of when Querrey flashes his boyish smile. High school phenom doesn't spring to mind either. But that's what he was.

Querrey turned down a scholarship to play tennis at USC and went straight from high school to the pros. He did so with encouragement from his father.

According to a 2006 New York Times article by Karen Crouse, Mike Querrey was in high school when the Detroit Tigers drafted him in the fifth round in 1979. However, he chose to attend the University of Arizona, marrying his "high school sweetheart" and putting baseball on the back burner.

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Querrey told Crouse, "My dad told me when I was signing my contract, 'Don't do what I did.' He told me to take the shot while it's there and do your best. I think he regrets not taking a chance when he had it."

He won his first ATP title in 2008, at age 20. The comparisons to Roddick came quickly. By 2009, Querrey was the No. 2 American, behind Roddick. That year he became the first American man to reach three straight ATP finals since Roddick.

Then, he had a freak accident in Bangkok. While Querrey put on his shoes, a glass table he was sitting on shattered. A piece of glass came within millimeters of severing a nerve in his serving arm. His career could have been over. Instead, he just needed stitches.

The comparisons to Roddick ended. Like so many talented American male players labeled "the next" somebody, Querrey never quite cleared that hurdle that takes you from prospect to stardom.

But he managed to have a solid, successful career. He's earned more than $7 million in prize money.

He hit a rough patch in 2013. That year, in an interview with USA Today's Douglas Robson, Querrey talked about how off-court distractions, including a broken engagement, kept him away from tennis. After Robson asked him about his absence from events, Querrey responded, "I'm no longer engaged. I'll tell you that."

Last year, Querrey went public with his search for love. He appeared on The Millionaire Matchmaker and shared his ideas about the perfect woman.

His celebrity crush is Taylor Swift.

Querrey's parents have been married more than 30 years. Querrey told Matchmaker that he longs to meet a "girly girl" and settle down. He also told the show he preferred to meet a woman who would be happy to follow him around the world watching him play tennis.

Tennis.com reported he's dating model Abby Dixon.

His doubles partner, Steve Johnson, is a good friend. According to the ATP, they've "known each other since they were kids growing up in California." The two won their first ATP title as doubles partners in May at the Geneva Open.

Johnson once prank called Querrey (see video above).

He's a laid back guy. That may have helped him survive the overnight rain delay at Wimbledon. Querrey told Nina Pantic of Tennis.com, "I slept great. I'm a pretty relaxed guy. Had an easy dinner at the house. My parents are there, some friends, my girlfriend. We just kind of hung out. Nothing exciting. Got back here today and went to work."

Next up, Querrey faces Nicolas Mahut in the fourth round. If Querrey wins, it will be the first time he's ever advanced beyond the fourth round in a Grand Slam.

Beating Djokovic was epic. But nothing beats entering uncharted territory.


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