Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Tennis: Auckland event '10 times better than Sydney', says candid Querrey

Sam Querrey's success in 2009 has helped draw him back to Auckland year after year. Photo / Greg Bowker
Sam Querrey's success in 2009 has helped draw him back to Auckland year after year. Photo / Greg Bowker

If all tennis players were as honest as Sam Querrey, the ATP tour would be a pretty interesting place to be.

The 2009 Auckland finalist - back in town for his fifth tilt at the title here - isn't afraid to express his opinion, with thought-provoking answers.

In an age where a lot of male tennis players offer cliched and formulaic responses, the 27-year-old American stands out from the crowd. Asked why he has come to back Auckland so many times he says simply: "It's this or Sydney ... and this one is 10 times better." On the subject of reduced qualifying opportunities - as the ATP is cutting fields from 32 to 16 - he says it is the correct move, reducing the amount of players who "probably shouldn't be there anyway".

His most interesting opinion was on the length of the calendar, which is a hot topic at this time of year, as players return to the grind after off seasons that seem to get shorter every year.

"I'd love a longer off-season, but I also enjoy the opportunity to make money for 10 months of the year," said the world No 59.

"The guys complain about it, then they go and play the exhibitions for three or four weeks."

The number of exhibitions has mushroomed over the past few years, in the Middle East, Australia and particularly in Asia, with the International Premier Tennis League.

"If you are going to complain about the long season, you can't go play exhibitions," said Querrey. "It's contradicting yourself a bit.

"I would like a longer off-season, but I wouldn't sacrifice giving up tournaments. I like having the 25 tournaments I play a year. It means 25 times, I can make a pay cheque."

And the 1.98m Querrey has banked plenty of those. He has earned about US$6.5 million ($9.72 million) across a decade on tour. The California native hit a purple patch during 2009 and 2010. In 2009, he reached five finals and the following year, his haul of four titles was bettered on tour only by Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. That season, he also reached the second week at Wimbledon and the US Open, which propelled him into the top 20.

He hasn't hit those heights since, but has remained a consistent top 40 or 50 player, though injuries have been disruptive in the past few years.

Querrey retains fond memories of his Auckland experience in 2009, which was the second ATP final of his career and first outside the US.

He beat Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer on the way to meeting Juan Martin Del Potro in the decider.

"It was all very new, the same with Del Potro," recalls Querrey of that week. "The crowd were great - it seemed like they were cheering for me in a lot of matches and any time you make a final anywhere, you like that tournament and are drawn back to it year after year."

Querrey's current ranking places him in qualifying, just outside the main draw, but that could change before the draw today.

- NZ Herald

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