Sony Open

Sam Querrey takes the long route in Sony Open win

 

Sam Querrey, now the highest ranked U.S. men’s player, prevailed in three sets over Lukasz Kubot of Poland on Saturday.

Special to The Miami Herald

When you’re playing your first match as the highest-ranked American man in the game, it would be a preference to come to the court after a good night’s sleep.

Unfortunately for 20th-ranked Sam Querrey, who jumped ahead of the now 23rd-ranked John Isner last week, that was not to be his fate when he faced Lukasz Kubot of Poland at the Sony Open on Saturday.

“I’m not sleeping well because of this Ultra Festival going on, and I could hear the bass and [see the] strobe lights shining in my hotel, so it’s hard to sleep,” Querrey said. “I think every hotel on Brickell is facing the same problem.”

When asked if he went outside to rock out at the festival, Querrey laughingly said, “I could do it right from my hotel room.”

Fortunately, being sleep deprived didn’t prevent the 25-year-old from winning the first match he played as his country’s top player. He needed 1 hour 37 minutes, but he pulled through with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over the 94th-ranked Kubot to move into the third round.

Querrey isn’t allowing his improved status in American tennis to get to his head.

“I never thought about it out there [Saturday],” he said. “Felt like any other day out there to me. Nothing new.”

What is feeling different to Querrey this week is his recently changed personal status: He’s now a betrothed man. He asked girlfriend Emily McPherson, a native Nevadan, to marry him last week.

Querrey is usually thought of as a Southern Californian, but he grew up in Las Vegas between 1995 and ’99 when his father, a mortgage banker, was relocated there.

Querrey currently splits his time between California and Henderson, Nev.

The proposal took place at their California place.

“When we’re in California, we have a condo that we live at there, and we have like a balcony out there,” he said. “[The proposal] was just out there before dinner.”

Isner, the former leading American man in the game, barely escaped unscathed against 54th-ranked Ivan Dodig of Croatia. In the end, Isner earned a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5) win and assured anyone in earshot that his sluggish performance had nothing to do with being kept awake by the Ultra Festival on Friday night.

“I can sleep through anything,” Isner said. “Once I get out, I can sleep through a train wreck.”

Isner’s match, however, nearly became a train wreck. He trailed by a set and a break before he got his act together. In the third set, Dodig was serving for the match at 6-5 with a break, but he wasn’t able to close out the match to move into the third round.

Isner served up 24 aces, no double faults and orchestrated a 70 percent first-serve percentage. Yet his serve was broken four times. A guy who relies on his mega-serve, Isner tends to play a lot of matches — way to many, he admits — that go the distance.

“I have won a lot of close matches in my career,” Isner said. “I have lost a lot of close matches. [Saturday] was one I won. The way I play, my margins are thin. Novak Djokovic won 6-1, 6-0 [Friday night]. I’m never going to do that. I’m just not going to break serve as much as he does.”

Isner is now 5-0 in the past five matches he has played that were decided in third-set tiebreakers. The last third-set tiebreaker he lost was to Frenchman Gael Monfils in the 2011 Paris-Bercy semifinals.

Elsewhere, top-seeded Serena Williams started slowly, losing the first three games of her match against 50th-ranked Ayumi Morita of Japan. But from there she picked up the pace and posted a 6-3, 6-3 victory in 74-minutes.

Unlike her sister, Venus Williams didn’t even make it on court after she determined her lower back hurt too much following a practice session. The walkover moved 16th-seeded Sloane Stephens, the highest-ranked American behind Serena Williams, into the fourth round, where she’ll face defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.

Seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, was upset by 28th-ranked Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 6-0, 4-6, 6-1.

Ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, with her boyfriend, golfer Rory McIlroy, in attendance, was upset by wild-card recipient and 73rd-ranked Garbine Muguruza of Spain 6-2, 6-4.

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