There's only one way to chop Sam Querrey down to size and halt his quest to win the Heineken Open - counter his sizzling serve.
After his impressive straight sets win over last year's finalist Olivier Rochus, which took just one hour, the 1.98m Querrey declared, on the back of 18 booming aces, he can take out this year's tournament.
"Definitely, yeah. I'd like to think so," the 25-year-old said.
Querrey has cause for confidence here. He enjoys the unique, intimate atmosphere captured by court-side corporate tables and has been close in Auckland before, losing the 2009 final to former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro.
This time, the fourth seed reckons he can go one better.
"I feel like I'm playing well. If I keep serving well and keep hitting my forehand great I feel like I'm a tough guy to beat," he said.
"My goal is to win it but I've got to take it one match at a time."
The world No 22 didn't stop there. Cleary, this American doesn't lack self-belief.
"This year I want to crack the top 10," he said. "I feel like this first half of the year is a good chance for me to do it. I want to make the quarter-finals of the Grand Slams."
To claim his eighth singles title, Querrey will have to improve his record against top ranked opponents. Three-time defending champion David Ferrer, the world No 5, is favoured to again contest the final.
And Querrey's 11 win-35 loss ratio against world's top 10 players isn't flash.
But the second ranked American - behind John Isner - is no slouch, having been among the top 25 for three of the last four years.
This week, his path seemingly leads to a semifinal with German world No 19 Philipp Kohlschreiber, although today Canadian qualifier Jesse Levine, who destroyed Kiwi Dan King-Turner and American Brian Baker in straight sets, might have something to say about that prediction.
Left-handed Levine is familiar with Querrey's powerful approach and will realise the need to shut down his serve.
"It gives me a ton of confidence. I think I had 18 aces today. It's just nice to know that if I need one on a big point I feel I can make it in," Querrey said.
"It gives me a sense in my mind that even if I'm not playing very well my serve can hopefully get me through some matches."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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