Sam Querrey and others work out the rust in a backyard return to tennis

Helene Elliott
LA Times
World No. 45 Sam Querrey, seen here in 2016, went 1-1 on Saturday in Rolling Hills but still advanced to Sunday's semifinals and will face Ernesto Escobedo. <span class="copyright">(Adam Pretty / Getty Images)</span>
World No. 45 Sam Querrey, seen here in 2016, went 1-1 on Saturday in Rolling Hills but still advanced to Sunday's semifinals and will face Ernesto Escobedo. (Adam Pretty / Getty Images)

Sam Querrey gladly put his racket aside after the Australian Open to focus on the birth of his son, Ford, 12 weeks ago. The coronavirus outbreak and subsequent global shutdown of sports extended Querrey’s break, giving him precious time with his son but leaving him unsure how he’d feel when he returned to competition Saturday at the six-man Homecourt Advantage tournament in Rolling Hills.

“Everyone’s a little rusty. I felt like my timing was clean,” said Querrey, a 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist and 2019 quarterfinalist. “My shoulder was a little sore from hitting serves. I haven’t hit serves in a while, but all in all I felt pretty good.”

Querrey, ranked No. 45 in the world, erased a 2-0 deficit to beat 17-year-old Zachary Svajda of San Diego 4-2, 4-1 in his first match but lost a third-set super tiebreak 10-8 to No. 126 Bradley Klahn in his second match. Querrey still advanced to Sunday’s semifinals and will face Ernesto Escobedo of West Covina.

Marcos Giron, who lost to Escobedo but defeated Brandon Holt, will face Klahn in the other semifinal. Players were divided into two groups of three Saturday and competed in a fast-four, round-robin format. They were ranked within each group by the number of wins, then the number of sets and games. Total prize money is $10,000.

The event, played on a picturesque clay court in the backyard of tennis fan Scott Douglas, had a family feeling. Most of the players practice there, often together. Holt, who had a virtual USC graduation ceremony Friday and upset Escobedo on Saturday before losing to Giron, lives within walking distance. Douglas invited only a few friends, and all of them had to answer a doctor’s questions about their health before they were allowed in and seated at a distance from one another. Players tapped rackets after each match and retrieved balls on their own. There was a chair umpire but no one working the lines.

It was quaint but also a noteworthy stride for the sport following events staged recently with local players in Germany and West Palm Beach, Fla.

“For now it’s baby steps and playing regionally because at least it gives them a feeling they’re progressing and moving in the right direction,” said Holt’s mother, tennis Hall of Fame member Tracy Austin.

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