By John Delong
Sam Querrey came to the Winston-Salem Open hoping to build some momentum going into the US Open, and that’s precisely what he is doing.
The 25-year-old Californian secured his spot in the semifinals for the second straight year with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Ricardas Berankis in the feature match on Thursday night.
Querrey, 6-6, used his power to muscle the 5-9, 155-pound Lithuanian around the court in the first set, then survived a bizarre stretch where the two traded breaks in four straight games in the second set.
Querrey said he thought it was his best match of the tournament so far. For sure it was the least pressure-packed after he went three sets to beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round and then had to save five match points to beat Jarkko Nieminen in the third round.
The tournament’s No. 6 seed will face No. 9 seed Jurgen Melzer in Friday’s evening semifinal.
"I played well I thought, best yet," Querrey said. "There was a little mental lapse in the second set where I lost serve twice, but he also did the same thing so I was fortunate there. I can’t let that happen tomorrow.
"But I thought all around it was pretty good. I was the most focused I’ve been all week. I’ve gotten a little better every match with the way I feel, the way I hit the ball, first-serve percentage. I’m hoping tomorrow can be even a little better."
Querrey, who has slipped to No. 29 after being as high as No. 18 in the spring, had won just one match the entire summer hardcourt season before coming to Winston-Salem. He said that he has a certain comfort level playing here, though, and that has helped him this week.
Querrey didn’t play in the inaugural 2011 tournament because of elbow surgery, but last year he advanced to the semifinals before losing to Tomas Berdych.
"It just feels good here," he said. "I like playing here. The crowds are great. Bill Oakes is one of my favorite tournament directors all year, and it’s just a great event. That always helps me when I’m comfortable at an event, when I like the city and I like the hotel and I like the crowd. It’s also fun when two of my three matches have been at night. It’s easy to get fired up for those."
Berankis, who came to the WSO ranked No. 126 after being as high as No. 67 in May, was mad at himself afterward.
"I didn’t play the way I was supposed to play, and that was my biggest mistake today," he said. "I played everything too fast, too quick. I guess the head was somewhere else, not on the court. A couple points I would play better on his serve, and when I was rushing so much. That was a big mistake on my part for sure."
Querrey has played Melzer twice previously, winning in Toronto and Cincinnati last year.
"Jurgen’s playing well," Querrey said. "I saw him play today and I thought he played great. So I’m going to have to play really well to beat him tomorrow."