Andy Murray fails to fell big Sam Querrey in Los Angeles

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
andy murray(Photo: Marianne Bevis)
ndy Murray became the first man in the top four to play a match on the ATP circuit since Wimbledon, and it proved to be a pretty lucrative move

andy murray

Andy Murray became the first man in the top four to play a match on the ATP circuit since Wimbledon, and it proved to be a pretty lucrative move.

In reaching the final of the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles, Murray managed to add 150 points. However, the Scot lost out on the title against reigning champion Sam Querrey, who has hit a purple patch of form in 2010.

The LA win marked the American’s fourth title of the year. It also ensured that the US Open Series is, two tournaments in, dominated by home players. Mardy Fish won in Atlanta last week and could meet Querrey in the quarter-finals of the 500 Legg Mason Classic in Washington this week.

Murray and Querrey had both looked less than convincing in their progress through the LA draw. Indeed only one match -Murray’s quarter-final defeat of Alejandro Falla -was accomplished in straight sets. What’s more, Querrey played a tie-breaker in every round, including the two hour 22 minute final.

Querrey had lost to Murray in all four of their previous matches, including a straight sets defeat in the fourth round of Wimbledon, and this one looked set to continue that trend.

In the Californian heat, a long sequence of close matches is not the best preparation for the gruelling rallies that Murray can impose. So once the British No1 had ground out a 7-5 first set and gained a match point in the second, it looked as though his head-to-head against the American would stay unblemished.

Murray certainly seemed full of confidence in the second set, experimenting with daring drop shots, firing off short angled forehands, and powering backhands deep to his opponent’s corners.

But the big American’s forward movement and anticipation have improved in the last 12 months and he joined Murray in attacking the net and slotting away sharp volleys.

It is a rare sight in the modern game to see two men at the net simultaneously but it became a frequent play in the middle stages of this match.

Querrey began to hold his own and fire off some sizzling forehands. By the second set tie break, Querrey looked confident and strong, and Murray’s shots and tactics started to look sloppy. Two early drop shots had no disguise and Querrey picked them off with ease, running away to a 7-2 win.

By the third set, the momentum was firmly with the American, and where Murray failed to convert his one break point opportunity, Querrey took his at the first time of asking. He took the match 6-3.

There are a couple of interesting points in the win that Murray will want to note. Querrey’s first serve percentage was well below Murray’s, though the American serve is one of his great strengths. Murray should have been able to capitalise on this and did not.

More telling was Querrey’s comment after the match: “The last two sets today were great. Andy is one of those players who allows me to hit my shots.” That is not how any player wants to be seen by an opponent.

Of course, Murray revealed just ahead of this tournament that he was having problems with his coaching set-up, and this was his first event since parting ways with Miles Maclagan. So during this transition period, Murray’s tactical problems could be put down to lack of preparation for the tournament: he broke his usual Miami training regime to take a wild card for Los Angeles.

Querrey now launches straight into the Legg Masters while Murray takes a week-long break to prepare for the two big Masters tournaments that follow. This is a rich three weeks for points: 500 in Washington, 1000 in Canada and another 1000 in Cincinnati. Last year, it was one of Murray’s best phases, winning Toronto and reaching the semis in Cincinnati.

Querrey, in contrast, has few points to defend and if he maintains his current fitness and form, he could reasonably target a top-12 position in the run-up to the US Open. He must take care, though, not to punish his body out of contention for that biggest of prizes in the most physically arduous of swings of the tennis year.

Elsewhere, there were excellent wins for two Spaniards on the European clay.

Nicolas Almagro continued a run of form with his second title in three weeks, and climbed from world No18 to 16. His 7-5, 6-1 victory over Richard Gasquet in Gstaad follows his win in Bastad two weeks ago over home favourite Soderling.

Almagro talked afterwards of his aims: “To reach the top 10 and stay there.” He failed to reach that target by one spot two years ago, and has since hovered in the 30s.

But with a dreadful run through the 2009 summer and autumn season, he is set fair to put on points should he sustain his aggressive and attractive attacking game on the hard courts.

The resurgent career of Juan Carlos Ferrero continued with a straight sets win over Potito Starace in Umag. After a run of three consecutive finals in the Latin American “Golden Swing” in the spring, the 30-year-old took his third title of the year in Croatia in just 80 minutes. It’s the first time since 2003 that Ferrero has won at least three ATP titles in the same season and it takes him No21 in the world.

One more result deserves a mention. The illustrious career of twins and doubles partners Bob and Mike Bryan reached another landmark as they took their sixth Los Angeles title.

It marked their 62nd tour-level title in their 100th final and took the record from Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. For the immediate future, they head straight to Washington for the Legg Mason Classic. In the longer-term, however, the sky seems to be limit for the likeable duo.

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