By Steve Galluzzo, special to EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com
LOS ANGELES -- Southern Californian Sam Querrey captured his seventh career ATP World Tour title Sunday by beating Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis 6-0, 6-2 in the singles final of the Farmers Classic at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The victory moved the 24-year-old from 57th to 38th in the South African Airways computer rankings and into a tie for the lead in the Emirates Airline US Open Series Bonus Challenge standings heading into this week's Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com: Why are you so comfortable playing at UCLA and do you think you have the "home court advantage" playing there?
Sam Querrey: I've played this event six times but I've been watching it since I was 9 or 10 so yeah I feel very relaxed when I come to L.A. and I've had success on those courts so that has something to do with it. I definitely hear the crowd support and when you know they're pulling for you... sure, it gives you a mental edge.
EAUSOS.com: How hard is it to maintain your concentration all the way through a match, especially when you're winning so easily?
SQ: Sometimes it's actually easier to stay focused when you're up 6-0, 3-0 simply because you know a player like Berankis isn't going to give up. You know there will be some tough moments and that's what happened. He had a few break points to get to 2-3 and I played some really good points to hold my serve. If he broke there it could've been a whole different match.
EAUSOS.com: Where does Sunday's victory rank compared to your previous six titles? Is each one more special than the last one?
SQ: A title is a title, but this one meant a lot because it's been two years since my last one and because it came here in L.A. in front of my friends, my family, my girlfriend Emily and all my fans. When I won here in 2010 I beat Andy Murray in the final and he was the highest ranked guy I'd beaten, so that was a pretty big win for me. This year I felt this was my tournament to win and it all came together.
EAUSOS.com: You're one of the taller guys (6' 6") on tour. How much of an advantage is that against a smaller player like Berankis?
SQ: It's an advantage on the serve, definitely, especially the first serve. I can crack down on it more, but a lot of guys don't have huge serves and they make up for it with speed and quickness. On forehands I'm hitting at a higher plane when I get the short ball in the air. I don't think about that stuff during a match, though. Mainly I just wanted to focus on my own game and see if he could beat that.
EAUSOS.com: What is your schedule like for the rest of the summer? How many events do you plan to play before the U.S. Open?
SQ: Right now the plan is D.C., Toronto, Cincinnati and Winston-Salem. I'm feeling good and I want to ride this train all the way through the U.S. Open. One of my goals is to be seeded at the Open and I think I can do it if I have a good summer. I would also love to play Davis Cup.
EAUSOS.com: You are only the third player in the Open era to win the Farmers Classic three times. What does that mean to you?
SQ: Considering the other two are [Jimmy] Connors and [Andre] Agassi, it means a lot. Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as those guys is amazing. They're two of the all-time greats. I grew up watching Andre and Michael [Chang] and Pete [Sampras] so it's awesome to have my name on the list with them. Hopefully I can make it four next year.
EAUSOS.com: You considered accepting a scholarship to the University of Southern California but opted for the pro circuit instead. What went into that decision?
SQ: That was one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make. I kept going back and forth. I'd win a match and think 'Okay, I'm ready to go pro' then I'd lose a match and think 'Maybe I should go to college.' But I had some great results in Challenger events and felt I had the game to compete on the professional level. I wanted to test myself against the best.
EAUSOS.com: How would you assess your game now compared to the level you were at before your shoulder surgery last year?
SQ: I think I'm playing better than I've ever played. I think my game is better now than when I was ranked 17th [in January 2011]. I'm playing at a top 20 level. My serve is more consistent, my forehand and return of serve have improved and I'm taking better care of my body. I'm traveling with a physio full-time now and it's really helped keep me fresh every week.
EAUSOS.com: Does experience play a factor when you get to the finals? Do you think it helps having been in that situation before?
SQ: It can, yes. I think Ricardas was probably a bit nervous and I played my best match of the week so it was a combination of the two. You do learn how to handle it better the more you do it... how to play smart and make your opponent earn the big points. My first final was against Kevin Anderson, but it was his first final too so that made it a little easier. I'm sure I was as nervous as Kevin was, but I won in three sets.
EAUSOS.com: Are you disappointed that you aren't playing in the Summer Olympics in London? How closely are you following it?
SQ: Obviously it's an honor to represent your country in the Olympics and I was able to experience that in Beijing in 2008. This year, because of the shoulder surgery and not being able to play last summer, I wanted to focus more on my ranking and getting that back up to where it was. It was rain delayed today but I've been following how the guys are doing. I think John [Isner] and Andy [Roddick] are playing well and they both have that big serve. The Bryan brothers are the favorites in doubles and for the women, how can you ever count out Serena [Williams]? I'm pulling for them and I definitely think they can come back with some medals.
EAUSOS.com: How close do you think you and other top Americans are to challenging the likes of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic?
SQ: Yeah, I think you can throw [Andy] Murray in there as well. Those four have separated themselves from the 5-100 guys in terms of consistency week in and week out. They're always getting to the semis of the Grand Slams. I don't feel like I'm at that level yet, but I'm getting there. I feel like I'm back in the mix with Andy [Roddick], John [Isner], Brian [Baker], Michael [Russell], Mardy [Fish], Donald [Young] and Ryan [Harrison].