NEW YORK -- All year, as he has lost before reaching the quarterfinals of Grand Slam events, Sam Querrey has had to answer the same question: What is wrong with American men's tennis?
It's not as if he knows, and it's tough to bear the burden of an entire federation, and frankly, it's tiring.
"A little bit, yes," Querrey said. "I got the same question all summer."
But he sat through it again. As the last American standing in the men's draw, the 22-year-old Querrey fell to Stanislas Wawrinka late Tuesday afternoon at Arthur Ashe Stadium, losing 6-7 (9), 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-4, 4-6 in a U.S. Open fourth-round match. It was hard for Querrey to take on the disappointment of an entire country, not to mention the disappointment of letting himself down.
"I was pretty sad in the locker room for a little while," Querrey said. "I mean, I don't feel that great right now. You know, pretty tired. My body is tired."
Wawrinka will face No. 12 Mikhail Youzhny in a quarterfinal.
It might have been one match, but it won't take long for it to be seen in the context of the domestic state of the game. This year, just one American reached a quarterfinal at any of the four Grand Slams, and that was Andy Roddick at the Australian Open.
With the loss of Mardy Fish to Novak Djokovic on Monday, the No. 22-ranked Querrey was the last American man left in the U.S. Open draw. Although Ryan Harrison energized the crowd on the Grandstand, the 18-year-old American lost three match points in a fifth-set tiebreak before losing to Sergiy Stakhovsky on Friday.
Between veterans like Roddick and James Blake, and young hopefuls like Harrison, this is the second straight year there hasn't been an American man in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open. Last year was the first year that had ever happened, and now it appears to be a worrying trend for the USTA, which uses a lot of the proceeds from the U.S. Open to grow the sport.
Tuesday's match had all the makings of a five-setter from the start. It started with the full sun and midday heat. The wind affected play, especially serves for both players.
Querrey had difficulty controlling his first serves during some of the big moments. In the first-set tiebreak, Querrey hit only three of 10 and lost the set on a Wawrinka service winner. Querrey got more than half of those serves in during the second-set tiebreak and hit a 130 mph ace up the tee to win the second.
The Swiss player didn't use his challenges all that judiciously, and used his fourth and final one on a first serve in the second set. He was awarded another during the second-set tiebreak and lost that one as well. Down 5-3, Querrey pushed to break him to win the fourth set. With the late-afternoon shadows crossing the court, Wawrinka faced four set points before holding, but Querrey held serve to win the fourth 6-4.
In the fifth set, a trainer came out to retape Wawrinka's left thigh. As for questions of Querrey's fitness, he seemed to cramp after hitting a phenomenal passing cross-court forehand to stave off a break point down 3-2 in the fifth. Querrey later said the cramping wasn't extreme and didn't affect his game too much.
But as the last moments of the match approached, play deteriorated. Both players started hitting shorter balls, dinking it over without using their legs.
"The last four games, he changed his game because he was tired," Wawrinka said.
As Querrey rose to serve down 5-4, an energized Wawrinka danced at the baseline. He forced a set point with an improbable cross-court passing shot, but a missed lob forced the game to deuce.
Wawrinka finally won the match on a backhand cross-court volley.
Wawrinka, who took out fourth-seeded Andy Murray in the third round 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3, exhibited a blistering one-handed backhand that seeks the line like a missile. Querrey dispatched No. 14 Nicolas Almagro in three straight sets that same round to set up the meeting.
Now Wawrinka gets set to face Youzhny.
"But it's gonna be difficult for me," Wawrinka said. "I will see how I'm gonna be with my leg and how I can rest for Thursday, but I will be focused more on myself than him."