KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — As Sam Querrey left the court Tuesday, two youngsters cradling huge stuffed tennis balls leaned over a first-row railing, hoping for an autograph from the highest-ranked American in men’s tennis.
Querrey, head down, kept walking. He was gone in a hurry at the Sony Open.
Playing his first tournament as the No. 1 American on the ATP Tour, Querrey lasted only 50 minutes in the fourth round and lost to Tomas Berdych, 6-1, 6-1. His elimination means that for the first time, the 28-year-old tournament will have no American in the men’s quarterfinals.
The shutout is the latest sign of declining fortunes for U.S. tennis.
“I guess you could say it’s been somewhat of the norm the last couple of years,” Querrey said. “It’s not like we had guys in the quarters week in, week out.”
American results on the women’s side have been better lately, thanks mostly to No. 1-ranked Serena Williams. The five-time Key Biscayne champion advanced to Thursday’s semifinals and tied the women’s record for career victories in the tournament by beating No. 5-seeded Li Na 6-3, 7-6 (5).
While Williams continues to dominate the WTA Tour, last year no American man reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal. The outlook wasn’t helped by the retirement of Andy Roddick, whose 2003 U.S. Open championship is the most recent major title by a U.S. male.
Querrey was playing his first tournament as the top American, and he managed his best showing in eight appearances at Key Biscayne, aided by a walkover in the third round. His serve and forehand let him down against Berdych, however. The 6-foot-6 Querrey came into tournament second on the tour in aces this year, but he had only four against Berdych, and made only 39 percent of his first serves.