Strong start, poor finish for Querrey
MELBOURNE, Australia -- With a potential fourth-round match against four-time champion Novak Djokovic waiting for the winner, Sam Querrey and Fabio Fognini could be forgiven for merely wanting to get there.
For Querrey, a victory would be his first Round of 16 at the Australian Open, and for Fognini, his first fourth-round berth in any Grand Slam tournament. And in a classic matchup of power player versus counterpuncher, the 5-foot-10 Italian outran and got the last word in Friday on the 6-foot-6 American, winning 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.Querrey's loss leaves Donald Young as the lone American man left in the tournament. Young will go up against Japan's Kei Nishikori in a third-round match Saturday night. And indeed, Fognini now will face Djokovic, a 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 winner over Denis Istomin on Friday night.
"I have a great relationship with him for 10 years," Djokovic said of Fognini, who is known as a clay-court specialist. "Once we get on the court, we're professionals and trying to win. He has been playing really well."
The Querrey-Fognini match was delayed three times by rain, once early in each set for a total of an hour and 28 minutes.
"It was a really long day," Fognini said, sighing.
But Querrey would not allow it to serve as an excuse, saying, "I felt pretty good. My hips tightened up a little because I'm a big guy, but it made no difference. [And] he seemed pretty even the whole time, I thought."
Querrey had 43 aces in his first two matches combined but just 10 Friday night. But it was not Querrey's big serve as much as his big forehand that let him down as the match wore on.
"He did a good job of counterpunching," Querrey said. "I missed too many first-ball forehands after my serve, and that may have been a combination of him putting pressure on me to maybe try to do a little too much with it. Probably I was just missing it. …
"I feel like I wasn't hitting my spots today. I just felt a little off. He did a great job of returning, but my serve wasn't anything close to two days ago."
Querrey got off to a strong start, breaking in the second game and leading 5-2 in the first set. But Fognini broke to pull to within 5-4 and again at 6-5, winning the final five games of the set.
Fognini attacked Querrey's second serve, ran down drop shots and dove for volleys, getting the crowd behind him and taking control for good after the second rain delay, breaking to go up 5-4 in the second and then winning the next game at love.
"Especially when I served for the first set at 5-4, I think I made 1 of 7 first serves that game, but he did a good job," Querrey said. "He's quick, he fought a lot of my balls back; he kept a lot of my serves in play; he had a lot of good passing shots, so kudos to him. I thought he played well."
Querrey had never come from two sets down to win as a pro, and this was not going to be his first. After the last rain delay at 2-all in the third, Fognini chipped away before breaking Querrey at love to take a 4-3 lead, then served it out, match point coming on a second-serve ace.
Querrey, 26, whose ranking would have received a bump from 51st into the top 50 with a win Friday, will next focus his attention on competition in the U.S., including, he hopes, one as a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team that will host Great Britain on clay courts at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.
Querrey will likely join John Isner and the Bryan Brothers on a team captained by Jim Courier.
"At least I hope so," Querrey said, winking.