US player Sam Querrey
US player Sam Querrey

LONDON: Sam Querrey was once such a loser in love that he jokingly turned to American TV reality show Millionaire Matchmaker to help him find the girl of his dreams. It wasn’t a success. However, on Saturday, the big-serving American proved to be more than a match for the world’s greatest tennis player when he sent Novak Djokovic spinning to a shock defeat at Wimbledon.

Querrey’s stunning 7-6 (8/6), 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) third round win ended two-time defending Wimbledon champion Djokovic’s Open era record run of 30 successive wins at the majors as well as his streak of 28 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals. It was also the world number one’s earliest loss at a Slam since 2009, ending his hopes of becoming the first man to claim a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.

For Querrey, who had beaten Djokovic at the Paris Masters in 2012, this was easily his best career win. “I think with, like, the stage that it was at, here at Wimbledon, to beat Novak, who is playing at such a high level for the past five years, I would say so,” said 28-year-old Querrey after seeing off the US, Australian and French Open champion. His closest friend and doubles partner Steve Johnson said he wasn’t surprised by his pal’s win which was spread over two days.

Querrey was two sets to love ahead on Friday when the match was halted for rain. He also saved 11 break points in the fourth set on Saturday, where he fired 15 of the 31 aces he unleashed in the match. “Sam is Sam. He’s in the locker room joking, golfing around, putting. Man, you have Djokovic two sets on the ropes,” said Johnson, who has his own date with destiny at Wimbledon Monday when he faces Roger Federer. Querrey agreed that his easy-going nature, which his friends exploited to get him on to Millionaire Matchmaker, came to his aid Saturday especially when he went to two match points in the fourth set tiebreaker.

‘Levelheaded and steady’
“I actually felt pretty levelheaded and steady the whole time. In the fourth set tiebreaker when I missed my serve at 6/5, I kind of went like, Oh, crap. “Fortunately played a good serve and he missed the forehand wide. That was it.” Querrey, now ranked 41 in the world, is one of a generation of US men seen as the heirs to Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Andy Roddick. But despite eight career titles, he had seen his ranking slip from the top 20 in 2010.

He has still to get to the last eight at a Slam but has a great opportunity on Monday when he faces 34-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Mahut for a place in the quarter-finals. “Even through the past few years when I haven’t been in the top 20, I beat Djokovic in 2012, I’ve had a couple wins over Kei Nishikori,” he said. “I’ve sprinkled a couple top?10 wins in there, which kept giving me the belief that, hey, if I keep at it, there will be some wins like this today.”

His heroics on the tennis courts of the All England Club have at least extinguished memories of his ill-fated 2015 experience of trying to find love on primetime television. “The date was fun, the girl I chose was really cool,” he recalled. “At the end of the episode it said we’re still together, but actually she never talked to me once after the show was shot.” —AFP