Imagine If Hewitt, Serena and Rafa Played With Sam’s Zero Emotion?


By Scoop Malinowski

Once again, Sam Querrey came up flat in a career-defining match. The veteran American may have possessed the superior firepower but he lacked the burning desire and emotional intensity of Kevin Anderson and consequently was downed in four entertaining sets, falling just short of reaching his first US Open semifinal.

Intangibles and details make the difference in hard fought, close tennis matches. Spiritual intensity, hunger, drive, desperation are powerful sources of energy and motivation. Lleyton Hewitt, Serena Williams, Rafa Nadal have shown us all just how vitally important emotional adrenaline is in a tennis match.

The Hall of Fame boxing coach Emanuel Steward once told me emotional adrenaline raises athletic performance. And last night’s Anderson vs Querrey showdown illustrated it perfectly.

Querrey plays violent tennis but he plays as if he has handcuffs on his emotions, like it’s illegal to roar or shout or express a raging obsession to win. He just can’t show that. Or perhaps he does not possess those unique emotions. Yet still he has gotten to where he is.

Anderson certainly does have those emotional reserves and is uninhibited about showing them. I saw him express fierce emotions and fist pumps in his first round match vs NCAA player JC Aragone, without fear of offending the pro-American crowd on court five. He did it in the first games of the match. Anderson didn’t do it to offend anyone but he did it for himself, to spark his very best tennis. And it paid dividends. It raised his performance to the highest level. And now Kevin Anderson, a former college player himself at Illinois, is in the US Open semifinals where he will meet Pablo Carreno Busta, a player he has beaten twice in two meetings, both in straight sets (2017 in Canada and 2013 in Casablanca).

Sam Querrey may never get the chance again to reach a US Open semifinal or any major semifinal. He may be destined to be a classy, fair play kind of second tier ATP champion. But one will always wonder, what would have happened to Sam’s career, with his extraordinary serve and forehand power – two of the biggest weapons on the Tour – if he played with the emotional fire of Lleyton Hewitt, Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal?

What if Sam could engage a crowd with fist pumps, eye contact and decibel busting roars of COME ONOOONNN! What if Sam had a ruthless killer instinct and played with a nastiness to “step on the opponent’s throat” as I once heard four-time Grand Slam major champion Jim Courier once say on the air of a telecast.

There’s no doubt Sam Querrey is a nice guy. One of the nicest you will ever meet in any sport. But just too nice to find that Jekylls & Hyde balance to be a ruthless assassin on the court and a gentleman off it.

This won’t sound pretty but it’s the truth: to be a champion at the highest level of pro tennis today, a player has to be a serial career killer, a lethal destroying machine, a greedy monster hungering for more glory and fame and money, without any sympathy or mercy… that’s the way Nadal, Federer, Serena, Maria, Djokovic have done it. That’s the way it has to be done. There is no other way in this day and age. Federer is 36 and he is still driven for more success and glory. Federer is 36 and he wants to crush as many #NEXTGEN stars as he possibly can. If Federer can stay on top for another ten years, he will.

Sam Querrey may never change his stripes and follow the creed, “When in Rome do as the Romans.” Credit to Sam Querrey for never betraying himself or his nature. He has still achieved an exceptional career than millions of tennis players could only dream of.

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  • stephen warren · September 6, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Scoop, I totally get ur take on temperament and it’s benefits but I’ve seen enough of Qball (on tele and live) to know his shortcomings are of the technical variety. This will sound odd, given ‘feel’ players tend to to be, stylistically speaking, pleasing to the eye, but Sam is a feel player. Maybe his could be called ‘power feel’ but he has that same languid, loose wrist at strike point as a tomic or a mecir. Granted, the prep and follow through aren’t as fluid but there’s definitely a looseness and consequently, a ‘where will this end up-ness’ to his strokes. Anderson was a good counterpoint in fact. He’s a mechanical bull. Same and same again. Sam’s shots vary from ‘i’ve never seen better’ to ‘i hope his family isn’t watching’. When the feet and hands are in sync he’ll progress. When they don’t, he’ll loose to the less talented. Breathing fire could well change the odd result but competitive ferocity comes a distant second to a forehand mechanic that can repeat under pressure.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 6, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Stephen Warren; All that technical stuff goes out the window. Emotional adrenaline raises an athlete's level. Emanuel Steward told me this and I knew it before he told me. Hewitt proved it, Rafa proved it. Serena proved it. Querrey is 8-7 h2h vs Anderson and he has won ten ATP titles to Anderson's three. Querrey is the better player. But Anderson wanted it more last night. His emotional adrenaline raised his level of play. I know it's a basic old cliche to "want it more." But it really is a truth. Even Sam's girlfriend seemed mildly annoyed at Sam when she tried to implore him on "Come on Sam." Maybe this loss will spark something and light his fire for the future. Maybe Sam is happy with his career as a second tier, fringe elite player who can cause the odd big upset in smaller tournaments or early rounds of a major. Maybe after this loss he will learn something about himself and want it even more and will seek revenge for this painful failure. Because he's the better player than Anderson, the head to head and career titles stats prove it.

  • Chazz · September 6, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Scoop, to play devil’s advocate, how do you explain Federer, Edberg and Sampras, who are/were about as unemotional as anyone?

  • Chazz · September 6, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    I’ll throw in Borg and Lendl too.

  • scoopmalinowski · September 6, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Fed is very emotional. Watch highlights of 2011 French Open vs Djokovic. The other eras pre Hewitt Connors didnt really use emotional adrenaline as much as today.

  • catherine · September 6, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Tennis was a gentlemen’s sport in those days :)



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