Sunday, September 28, 2014

Querrey routs Smyczek for Napa Challenger title

Sam Querrey poses with tournament committee chairman Kevin Crossland, left,
and tournament director Chris Arns after winning the Napa Valley Challenger.
Photos by Paul Bauman
   NAPA, Calif. -- It was great news for tournament director Chris Arns when Sam Querrey requested a late wild card for the $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger.
   It wasn't so swell for Tim Smyczek.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey, a Davis Cup veteran who has been ranked as high as No. 17 in the world, overpowered the 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Smyczek 6-3, 6-1 today for the title of the second annual tournament.
Tim Smyczek displays his runner-up trophy with Todd Meginness,
the general manager of the Napa Valley Country Club, and Arns.
   The match between the 26-year-old Americans lasted only 54 minutes on a cloudy, cool day at the beautiful Napa Valley Country Club. He will climb from No. 54 in the world to No. 47 after his first Challenger since winning the title on clay in Sarasota, Fla., in April 2012
   Querrey was born in San Francisco and grew up in nearby Santa Rosa before moving to Las Vegas at 7 and Thousand Oaks in the Los Angeles area at 10. His father, Mike, is a mortgage banker, and his mother, Chris, is a housewife.
   Rather than travel to Asia to play on the elite ATP World Tour, Querrey chose the three-week Northern California swing through Napa, Sacramento and Tiburon on the lower-level Challenger tour.
   "I was (going to be) in the qualifying of Tokyo and Shanghai, not in the main draw," explained Querrey, who lives in Las Vegas. "I don't have a coach right now. David Nainkin and I (parted) ways earlier in the year. I didn't want to go all the way over there by myself.
   "I just knew that wasn't going to be the right decision for me. I'm comfortable here, there are some USTA coaches here, I've got family and friends here, and it just seemed like a better fit for me."
Querrey used his booming serve to rout Smyczek 6-3, 6-1
in 54 minutes for the title.
   Querrey used his devastating serve and forehand to improve to 3-1 against Smyczek (pronounced SMEE-check), who grew up in Milwaukee and trains in Tampa, Fla. The previous matches had been close, with Smyczek winning the last one. That came in the first round of an ATP grass-court tournament in Newport, R.I., last year.     
   This time, several factors conspired to doom Smyzcek in the one-sided match.
   Querrey has played well lately after falling to No. 175 James Ward in the United States' 3-1 upset loss to Great Britain in the first round of the Davis Cup in San Diego in February.
   In his last three competitions before Napa, Querrey reached the semifinals at Winston-Salem, N.C., for the third straight year, reached the third round of the U.S. Open before losing to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in straight sets and won both of his matches in a 5-0 victory over Slovakia in Chicago in the Davis Cup World Group playoffs.   
   Querrey blasted 10 aces to Smyczek's none, converted 71 percent of his first serves and won 80 percent of the points on his first delivery. He saved all three break points against him.
   "I'm feeling confident, feeling good," said Querrey, who has won seven career ATP singles titles. "I don't think (Smyczek) had his best day out here, but I felt like I kept the pressure on him and served really well. That's usually the key for me."
   Then there was Querrey's homecourt advantage.
   "I'm very comfortable here," he emphasized. "I love playing in California."
Top seeds Adil Shamasdin, second from left, and Peter Polansky
of Canada beat No. 2 Bradley Klahn and Smyczek 7-6 (0), 6-1
for the doubles crown.
   Smyczek, meanwhile, complained that "my game in general was not very sharp today. It might not have even mattered. Sam was serving at a really high percentage, and when he does that, he really makes it tough on guys. Today, he just played too (well)."
   Smyczek was coming off a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over 17-year-old Jared Donaldson, arguably the United States' top teenage prospect, in their first meeting.
   "Yesterday's singles match was not so much physically tiring as it was a little mentally tiring," said Smyczek, who will remain No. 99. "I had some nerves coming out, and that's normal playing a young kid who's as good as Jared is. It took a lot mentally for me to get through that match."
   Smyczek added that the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Donaldson has "a lot of potential. He's got a couple of big weapons (the serve and forehand), but the main thing is he's so solid with everything he does. You don't see that very often in a player his age.
   "Usually, good players his age have a glaring weakness, and he doesn't. He could be a heck of a player. He already is. If he keeps working hard -- he's got a great coach in Taylor Dent -- the sky's the limit. He's a great talent."  
   Smyczek fought to a 2-2 tie in the first set of the final, but Querrey reeled off 10 of the last 12 games.
   "Early on, I had a tough service game at 2-all," said Querrey, who roomed with Smyczek at the Arnses' house during the week. "We were kind of back and forth. When I got through that, I gained a little confidence. Then I was able to swing out a little more and play a little more aggressively."
   Querrey could sweep the Napa, Sacramento and Tiburon titles.
   "I feel I've got a little momentum right now," he said. "I played well not only in this tournament but in the Davis Cup and U.S. Open. It's the best I've felt all year. Hopefully, I'll ride it out through the rest of the year and finish strong."
   Smyczek also lost in the doubles final for the second consecutive year. Top-seeded Peter Polansky and Adil Shamasdin of Canada defeated second-seeded Bradley Klahn, a former NCAA singles champion from Stanford, and Smyczek 7-6 (0), 6-1.   
   In last year's doubles final, Bobby Reynolds of Marietta, Ga., and John-Patrick Smith of Australia topped Steve Johnson of Orange, Calif., and Smyczek. Reynolds retired in July at 32.

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