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Querrey enjoys life on the edge in first-round victory

Times Staff Writer

Going to watch The Q -- the person, as in Sam Querrey, not the stadium, as in Qualcomm, in San Diego -- was no easy undertaking on a sun-baked Saturday.

His first-round match at the Pacific Life Open wasn’t played in Indio. It just seemed that way.

Court 6, on the edge of Indian Wells Tennis Garden, all but meets the desert, and fans packed the stands and area around it trying to watch the next great hope in American men’s tennis, a 19-year-old from Thousand Oaks sweating through a 6-2, 6-4 victory against Christophe Rochus of Belgium.

“I kind of like it out there,” said Querrey, who also dealt with 90-degree-plus weather. “I thought I honestly was going to play on Stadium 2 or 3. I don’t know. I was happy on Court 6. The crowd feels like they can get more into it, and it’s better if my fans are closer.”

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This includes his now-ubiquitous fan club of shirtless buddies, who like to show up at places like this and closer to home at UCLA. Querrey hopes they strut their stuff at his second-round match against fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko.

“Looking forward to playing him. Ranked four. Hopefully all my friends are going to be out there, maybe I can get in his head,” Querrey said. “We’ll see. It should be a good match.”

Apparently, Sam’s Club got to Gaston Gaudio at last year’s U.S. Open, according to Querrey.

“Even though I lost, they were going back and forth,” he said. “And at the L.A. Open, it seemed like them and [Vince] Spadea were kind of going back and forth.”

Querrey has dealt with the questions and increased expectations with an unstudied nonchalance. He turned professional in 2006, finished the year ranked No. 127 and is a career-high 67 this week. In 2007, he has reached two quarterfinals and lost in the third round of the Australian Open.

His self-grade?

“A-minus,” he said. “I mean, so far, I’ve lost to five guys, four of them are top 10 and [Evgeny Korolev] last week [in Las Vegas].”

Meanwhile, the slow-starting tournament lurched into action with the emergence of some of the top men. Second-seeded Rafael Nadal had a bit of trouble in closing out Arnaud Clement in the second round but prevailed, 6-3, 7-6 (3), and No. 3 Andy Roddick defeated Feliciano Lopez, 7-6 (5), 6-4, in a night match.

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Nadal said he was happy with recent improvements in his forehand, and the young Spaniard seemed nearly as pleased to learn a new word in English: Further.

“New word. That’s good,” he said. “That always is important. So I learn.”

The top women had little trouble in the second round. Second-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Romina Oprandi, 7-5, 6-3; No. 4 Nadia Petrova beat Gisela Dulko, 6-3, 6-4, and No. 10 Ana Ivanovic defeated Vania King, 6-3, 6-0.

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com


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