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Sam Querrey defeats Andy Murray in Farmers Classic final

Sam Querrey played past his nerves and went to a place where his confidence was steady and his creativity was overflowing.

In this place he had the idea that he could hit a drop shot while standing only a foot inside the baseline against Andy Murray, who is ranked No. 4 in the world and has a sprinter’s speed.

Querrey’s shot came late in the third set of the championship match of the Farmers Classic at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on Sunday, and as fast as his strong legs could carry him, Murray tried to reach the ball as it settled just over the net on his side of the court.

But Murray was too late, and as he tried to catch his breath Murray stared at Querrey. It was a look of puzzlement and appreciation, as if to say, “Really, you tried that?” and, “Wow, you made that?”

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Not more than five minutes later, Querrey, the tournament’s second-seeded player and defending champion, was high-fiving everybody he could.

The 22-year-old from Thousand Oaks upset top-seeded Murray, a 23-year-old from Britain, 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-3, in 2 hours 22 minutes to retain his title. For his victory Querrey received a check for $111,950 and the honor of being the first man since Andre Agassi in 2001 and 2002 to successfully defend his title here.

This win over Murray was more meaningful for Querrey than the one in his championship match last year over qualifier Carsten Ball.

“This feels greater,” Querrey said. “Last year I didn’t beat a top-10 guy. And this is the first time I’ve gotten to defend a title, so I’m pretty proud of myself.”

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Querrey had never won even a set against Murray in four previous matches. They played in June in the fourth round at Wimbledon, and Murray was not troubled by anything Querrey offered in a 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 win.

Sunday was different.

After he lost the first set, Querrey seemed to settle into a positive place. He decided to play offense more than defense and to accept the occasional error as a fair exchange for extravagant winners. He also went to the net more.

According to his coach, David Nainkin, Querrey approached the net nearly 50 times, and that was pleasing.

“I told him to play his game,” Nainkin said, “and that’s part of his game. I think the difference today against Andy was that Sam truly believed he could be Sam Querrey, play Sam Querrey’s game and beat Andy. He didn’t have to try to be someone else.”

Querrey saved a match point in the 10th game of the second set, outlasting Murray in a long rally that forced the scrambling Murray to finally knock a backhand long.

After another mis-hit in the third set, Murray smashed his fist on his racket with such force that his knuckles began bleeding. Murray wiped them on his shirt and left a bloody stripe.

“I do that all the time,” Murray said. He was unbothered by the scraped hand, and also by the loss.

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Murray was a late entrant here, joining the draw three days before the tournament began after Novak Djokovic pulled out.

“It was a good tournament,” Murray said. “It was disappointing to lose today, but I take into consideration the circumstances. I was happy getting into the final and having chances to win today. I didn’t play my best tennis, but each match I felt better physically.”

Querrey won his fourth title of the year. Only Rafael Nadal, with five, has more. However, Nadal’s haul includes Wimbledon and the French Open. Querrey hasn’t advanced further than the fourth round of any major, and this year he lost in the first round of the Australian and French opens.

Querrey had an easy answer for what he needs to do to transfer his winning powers to bigger events.

“Take more points,” he said.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin


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