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From Practice Partner to Starter, Querrey Ready to Make Davis Cup Debut

Sam Querrey is currently ranked 40th in the ATP Rankings
Sam Querrey lost to Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the US Open
Sam Querrey, along with Donald Young, served as a practice partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team two times previously

By Jason Brown, USTA.com

After two stints as a practice partner, watching from the bench as the United States laid the foundation that would eventually produce a Davis Cup title, young American Sam Querrey is finally getting his big break to play meaningful minutes on the senior squad.

Set to become the 135th member of the U.S. Davis Cup team in the competition’s 108-year history and the first U.S. rookie since February 2004, when Robby Ginepri played in the first round against Austria at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., Querrey is a little bit nervous but excited for the opportunity.

“I think when I get there and actually walk out on the court for my first time, whether that's introduced or that's actually like playing my first match, I think I will get a little nervous then,” said Querrey.

Querrey will make his debut next week in Madrid, when the reigning champions meet Spain in a World Group Semifinal at the Plaza de Toros Las Ventas, a temporary red clay tennis court built inside a bullfighting ring that will host about 21,000 fans each day.

“It's not the easiest tie to just kind of start off your Davis Cup career with,” said Querrey.

“I would probably prefer a home tie on hard court. To jump in there against Spain in the semifinals, in a way, it's a nice introduction to the Davis Cup. It will be tough. Hopefully I can have a good week of practice when we get there and put up a good showing and possibly win some matches.”

U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe had used the same lineup – Andy Roddick, James Blake and Bob and Mike Bryan – for the team's previous 10 Davis Cup ties dating back to the World Group playoff at Belgium in September 2005, when Querrey was a practice partner for the first time.

After selecting the same four-man unit to face Spain, McEnroe was forced to improvise after being informed by Blake, the team’s No. 2 singles player, that he was physically and mentally exhausted after a long stretch of play that included Olympus US Open Series tournaments, the Beijing Olympics and a tough loss to his best friend, Mardy Fish, at the US Open.

It’s no secret that the team is close knit and that Querrey was viewed as somewhat of an outsider. Still, he feels that all of the American players share a common bond and that he’s been quickly embraced by the core group, including participating in recent practice time and bonding sessions in Roddick’s hometown of Austin, Texas, before they left for Spain.

“It's a little bit of a bummer with the team being the defending champion,” said Querrey. “You kind of want to give those four guys a shot to get their title back. But I'm close to Andy, Bob and Mike, Mardy, John Isner, Donald Young, every American player. Everyone's close. Everyone gets along. I don't think there are any hard feelings or anyone feels they don't belong.”

“I'm down here in Austin now practicing with Bob and Mike and Andy. We haven't really talked about it yet. Just maybe a few little things here and there, but nothing of importance. I'm sure we will once we get to Spain.”

Querrey was a Davis Cup practice partner for the 2006 quarterfinals in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and was an alternate at the 2007 quarterfinals in Winston-Salem, N.C., when Roddick's availability was in question after he suffered a hamstring injury five days before the tie in Miami at the Sony Ericsson Open.

His two stints as a practice partner, including light-hearted hazing rituals and team dinners, has prepared him for the week to come in Madrid.

“That's been a big help,” said Querrey. “I kind of felt how the Davis Cup atmosphere the week prior to the actual matches kind of works. I'm not walking in there not knowing anything. At least I know how everything works, a little bit of what to expect.”

What Querrey can expect is a raucous atmosphere in the Madrid bull-fighting ring and an instant rematch against Rafael Nadal, a player whom he lost to just two weeks ago in New York.

At the 2008 US Open, Nadal and Querrey met in the round of 16. In form and confident, Querrey took a set from the world’s top-ranked player but fell in four sets, 6-2, 5-7, 7-6, 6-3.

“I played well against Rafa,” said Querrey. “I played him twice now. I've taken sets off him in both matches. I've got some confidence. I mean, both those matches were on hard court. Clay might be a different story. I definitely got the confidence I can play with him and possibly beat him.”

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