Sam Querrey, the 28th-ranked tennis player in the world, is set to play the biggest match of his career on the biggest stage in tennis — the semifinal round of the Wimbledon championship.
After upsetting the No. 1 player in the world and defending Wimbledon champion, Andy Murray, Querrey moved on to face No. 6 Marin Cilic in Friday’s semifinal match.
But before he stepped foot on the legendary grounds of the All England Club for Wimbledon, Querrey spent his early days training at Santa Rosa’s La Cantera tennis club as a child.
He trained at La Cantera from 1990 through 1993, from ages 6 through 9, before moving to Southern California.
Querrey spent time training with John Potter, the club’s camp director. Potter does not take credit for Querrey’s signature serve, but said they spent a lot of time working on the introductory fundamentals of the game.
Potter said that even at a young age, it was evident Querrey had something special going on. Potter said Querrey shined in the big moments at the earliest stages of competition.
“I would tell him, ‘OK, you really need this point, this is a big point for you,’ and he would then get the point with little to no pressure,” said Potter. “He was nails.”
Potter said he was a club regular while he lived in Santa Rosa. Querrey only lived a couple of blocks away from La Cantera and attended Village Elementary School.
Querrey would practice with Potter at La Cantera’s after-school clinic three times a week and also take part in the club’s summer camps. The minimum age for the camp was 8, but Querrey was allowed to compete as young as age 6 because he was so tall and athletic (he now stands 6-foot-6).
Most times Querrey would face off against 12-year-olds in the summer camp’s championship round.
One of the reasons Querrey was such a regular at La Cantera was because his mother, Chris, worked at the club. While working there, she became close friends with the club’s manager, Erin Morales, who has memories of Querrey being in love with the game of tennis at a young age.
Morales said that while his mother was working, Querrey would spend all day hitting balls fired from a machine. She called seeing a kid Querrey’s age do that “unique.”
After the family moved to Southern California, Morales and Chris made plans to get together following a weekend tournament in Alameda that Querrey had entered.
It was his first national tournament and Querrey was unseeded, so he and his mother were supposed to visit Santa Rosa once he was eliminated, Morales said.
They never made it up to Santa Rosa. Querrey advanced all the way to the final day of the tournament, where he won third place. Morales called it a “wow” moment and said she started thinking Querrey had a serious future in tennis.
Morales is still close with Chris and even went to Wimbledon in 2005, when Querrey was competing in the junior tournament for the first time.
Morales and her family always wanted to attend the tournament and figured it would be a good time to go because they would know someone competing.