It’s easy to say tomorrow’s final between Andy Murray and Sam Querrey at the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles doesn’t really matter in the larger scheme of the summer hardcourt season. Sure this event is a warmup for the bigger tournaments leading into the U.S. Open and that both players are just looking to get their games and bodies limbered up again for the big show in New York later this month. But for both, winning tomorrow would actually be a big deal in differing ways. And even though Murray goes in as a heavy favorite, if Querrey is finally going to get a win against a top five player, this will be his best chance.
Someone tonight in Murray’s post-match press conference asked if the final tomorrow could compare at all to the players’ last encounter in the fourth round of Wimbledon where the home crowd was decidedly for the Scot. Murray didn’t think it would be an issue for him but for Querrey, it might relax him a bit to play in front of local supporters along with his family and devoted band of merry rabble-rousers, the “Samurais”, and really go after Murray tomorrow.
All week the American press here has been eager to interview any American player they can find, not only to drum up that player’s chances down the road, but also to reminisce in a way over the past glories of John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Querrey, who’s been having a great year so far winning three titles, seems poised to move up the ranks but as Janko Tipsarevic, whom Querrey beat earlier today in their semifinal, correctly pointed out, Querrey will need to start doing better in Grand Slams and beating top ranked players, something he’s had difficulty doing. A win over Murray tomorrow, even if Murray isn’t exactly 100%, would go a long way to giving Querrey the confidence he needs to take that next step into the top ten.
For Murray, winning L.A would give him his first title of the year after a long drought since his finalist run at the Australian Open. In fact, this is only Murray’s second final appearance of the year since Melbourne. Murray, who admitted his sub-par play is mainly due to a lack of matches since Wimbledon, could take this title run in L.A. as a sign that not all is wrong with his game despite the difficulties this year has brought. In his press conference, Murray strikes me as being very thoughtful and clear in his place in the scheme of the tour right now, and although losing to Querrey would be a mild surprise, I have a feeling Murray will want to take this title if nothing more than to just shut up the British press at home for a few weeks and stop their constant moaning that all is lost for the U.K. No. 1.
Finally, Querrey (22) and Murray (23) are close in ages, but they couldn’t be more different in personalities, their games, and even their place in the sport. Murray is the sometimes grumpy but thoughtful Scot who deals with the expectations of a nation and a sport that waits for him to claim his first Grand Slam title. Meanwhile, Querrey who also has to deal with a nation’s hope that he’s the next “one”, but to a lesser extent, comes across as hopeful, a tad goofy and a bit of a kid. And I mean that in a good way. After his match today, he was out on the dining concourse eating a sandwich with some friends and family, checking his PDA and enjoying himself, as if he had just graduated college and was back home enjoying his summer. Or to put it another way, I think Querrey would find the prospect of spending his summer trying to hire a coach and mount a successful Grand Slam run on his own absolutely terrifying.
Which is why Murray’s solo run across America might be the most interesting thing in tennis to keep track of this summer. If Murray wins L.A., it would prove to everyone that despite all the rumors and second guessing, Murray knows exactly what he’s doing.