By John Delong
Sam Querrey isn’t completely sure why he always plays so well at the Winston-Salem Open, but he’s sure happy that it continues to happen.
The 2012 and 2013 semifinalist knocked off second-seeded Kevin Anderson 7-6 (4), 6-4 on Wednesday evening, advancing to Thursday’s quarterfinals where he will meet Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
It was Querrey’s first win over a Top 20 opponent all year – Anderson came into the match at No. 20 – and it was arguably his best performance of an often-inconsistent 2014.
“I played great,” the 26-year-old Californian said. “Best I’ve played all summer. I was aggressive the whole time, returned well, and I just thought everything was good. It was one of my best wins of the year, as far as beating a good player and how I played, too. If I missed shots, I just let it go and moved forward.”
Querrey, currently ranked No. 56 after dropping to as low as No. 82 in April, was at a loss to explain why he has had so much success here.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “I’m just comfortable here. I’ve played well in the past, I’ve got a good attitude. I can’t put my finger on it but this is three years in a row I’ve played well here and I love coming back.”
Querrey got the mini-break he needed in the first-set tiebreak when Anderson double-faulted. Then in the second set, he converted his only break of the match in the final game.
“When you’re playing a guy like that, it’s just a point or two here and there, and in the tiebreak the double fault and then in the second set it was match point,” Querrey said. “It’s separated by such a fine line. Every point in the breaker is big and you’ve really got to focus in.”
His serve was outstanding throughout the match – nine aces, 69 percent on first serves and 87 percent of first-serve points won. He faced only two break points all afternoon and saved both.
“I’ve served well all week,” he said. “My serve is usually pretty good. It’s one of those things in my game, I could be having the worst day from the ground, but 99 times out of 100 my serve feels like it’s there. And it was with me all day.
“The big thing is, I’ve played aggressive and played the right way and I feel good out there. That’s three matches in a row where it’s felt better every match. I’m happier about that than anything.”
Querrey opened the tournament with wins over Pere Riba and Steve Johnson in the first two rounds.
In Garcia-Lopez, he’ll be facing a player he has beaten twice before, including last year in the second round of the WSO. Querrey won that match 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“He’s tough,” Querrey said of Garcia-Lopez. “Great ground strokes. But I’m not going to worry about what he’s doing. I’m going to worry about what I’m doing. Hopefully I’m going to serve well again, be aggressive, and if I miss balls put it behind me and go on to the next one. Just like I did today.”
In the other featured night match, top-seeded John Isner reeled off 17 aces in dispatching Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 7-6 (3). That moves Isner into a quarterfinal matchup against seventh-seeded Lukas Rosol on Thursday night.
Isner needed only 18 minutes to claim the first set.
“I got off to a great start,” the Greensboro native said. “I played very well right from the get-go, was putting a lot of pressure on him and doing the right things. Then I got away from that a little bit. He changed up his tactics up and certainly played better in the second set, but then I played well at the end.
Isner had beaten Bradley Klahn in his opening second-round match on Tuesday.
“I was more comfortable on the court tonight,” Isner said. “Any time you’re at a new tournament, new conditions, it takes a little bit to get used to. I think that’s one of the reasons I got off to a better start tonight. I wanted to get off to a better start and make more balls and play the right way, and that’s what I did in the first set.”