INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Is Sam Querrey ready to take on the mantle of the No. 1 American? With John Isner and Mardy Fish’s early exits from the BNP Paribas Open, the laid-back Californian became the 13th American No. 1 since the introduction of the computer rankings, taking over the top spot from Isner.
“It’s a great feeling,” Querrey said after a hard-fought 7-6, 6-7, 7-5 win over Marinko Matosevic in the third round. The win earns him a match against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Wednesday night. In a notable twist, Querrey is the last man to beat Djokovic, getting the better of the Serb 0-6, 7-6, 6-4 at the Paris Masters last fall.
“Mentally it doesn’t feel like a huge change,” he said. “I feel like I have worked hard to earn it. Everyone seems like they’ve got their shot with Andy and Mardy and James and John, and so I feel like it’s my turn now. But, you know, those guys are right on my heels and we will keep pushing each other. I know they want it, too. Hopefully we will just keep pushing each other and we can all keep moving up the rankings.”
The state of American men’s tennis has been a big topic of conversation over the last week. With Isner’s opening round loss to Lleyton Hewitt, there was a possibility that there would be no American men inside the top 20 for the first time since the ATP’s computer rankings were introduced in 1973. To his credit, Querrey’s two wins here ensured that he’d finish the tournament inside the top 20 but the overall downward trend is still cause for concern. As Mardy Fish says, these circumstances simply highlight the importance of Andy Roddick over the years. His consistency and ability to handle the pressure and scrutiny meant a nine-year stay inside the top 10. Now the American men are scrapping to stay inside the top 20.
Being the No. 1 isn’t an illusory title or a simple number next to your name. With it come responsibilities and expectations that Fish, who held the top American spot for over a year in 2011 and 2012, knows too well. “It’s a little more pressure than you think it is,” Fish said. “You know, most everyone who has been the No. 1 American has been in the top 10 as well, so there are a lot of guys gunning for you. I don’t know what that will feel like. But Sam’s been out here for a while. He has been in a lot of situations. “
“We’re going to have a guy that, you know, might not even be in the top 20 and still be the No. 1 American,” Fish said. “So it’s a little bit of a shame, for sure. I’m sure Sam would [like to be] in the top 10 and be a No.1 American like we all have, but I’m sure he’ll take it nonetheless.”