By John Delong
Welcome to Day 4 of the Winston-Salem Open and the Round of 16.
Sam Querrey finds himself in the spotlight as one of the two remaining Americans in the field as he faces Jarkko Nieminen in the first afternoon match on Center Court.
The 25-year-old Californian is the tournament’s No. 6 seed, and is coming off a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 second-round win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Monday night.
Querrey, who was the top-ranked American early in the year before dropping to his current No. 29, sees the opportunity to go far in this tournament with the top two seeds in his half of the draw – Tomas Berdych and John Isner – no longer in the tournament.
"Definitely, that side of the draw you can say is open," Querrey said. "You know that two big kind of power guys are out. So you want to take it one match at a time, but it’s hard not to know that in the back of my mind that, ‘Hey, I’ve got a good opportunity here.’
"I’ve lost a lot lately, so I’m literally just going one match at a time and if I can win another one that’s great, and another one, that’s great. I don’t want to look too far ahead. But I think if I do the right things and play well, I think I can make the final."
Nieminen, a 32-year-old from Finland who is currently ranked No. 40, advanced to the third round when Mardy Fish was forced to retire on Tuesday.
Nieminen has faced Querrey just once before, with Querrey prevailing in Rome last year.
"It’s not an easy draw to start with Mardy in the States and then play Sam," Nieminen said. "Sam’s a great server, hits good big shots. I just have to serve and return well and stay aggressive, because if he can control the points I’ll be in trouble. It’s a big challenge but I’m looking forward to it."
In other matches on Center Court, No. 7 seed Fernando Verdasco will take on 2011 WSO semifinalist Robin Haase; No. 8 seed Juan Monaco will face No. 10 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov; and in the featured night match, No. 15 seed Gael Monfils will take on No. 4 seed Tommy Robredo. The night will wrap up with the top-seeded doubles team of Leander Paes anad Daniel Nestor taking on Paul Hanley and John Peers.
On the outer courts, American qualifier Steve Johnson looks to win his sixth match in five days as he takes on Yen-Hsun Lu on Court 2, following the match between No. 5 seed Benoit Paire and No. 9 seed Jurgen Melzer.