A year ago, Sam Querrey was recovering from elbow surgery, watching as his ranking slipped slowly but surely into the triple digits.
Though the elbow was back to full strength by the beginning of this year, Querrey said on Sunday, regaining the form that had made him one of the top 20 singles players in the world has taken a little longer.
"It's tough when you have a surgery like that," Querrey said before playing singles and doubles for the Capitals in their 23-16 loss to the visiting Springfield Lasers.
"I feel like the first half of this year, I was playing average, not great. But I feel like now I'm playing at the level I was before I got hurt. I feel like I'm playing at a top-20 level, even though my ranking's in the 50s."
Querrey, a big-serving, 6-foot-6 American, reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 17 in January 2011 and was in the top 30 when he felt a pain in his elbow before a third-round match at Queen's Club in London that June.
He returned to the court in September and this year has a 14-15 singles record on the ATP World Tour, including a semifinal appearance at Queen's Club. He won a Challenger title in Sarasota, Fla., in April. Each match win, Querrey said, has helped restore some of the confidence that was shaken by his three-month hiatus.
"That was probably the biggest thing, just the belief walking on court and saying, hey, I can make all these shots, or, I'm going to beat this guy," Querrey said. "I didn't have that for a while, but now I'm starting to get that back where I'm walking on the court going, hey, I'm going to win this match; I don't care who I'm playing."
In his week with the Capitals, Querrey won five of his six singles matches and partnered with Mark Knowles for two stirring last-set victories in men's doubles, though the duo was unable to recreate those results in the final set Sunday. The 57th-ranked Querrey plans to depart today for Los Angeles and the Farmers Classic, which he has won twice.
"I think I'm getting better, especially with things like my return of serve, and I feel like I'm playing with more guts now than I did when I was (No.) 17," Querrey said. "I feel like now when I'm getting to big points in matches I'm being more aggressive, which I want to do, and I wasn't doing that a year ago.
"That's been the hardest thing for me to develop," he said. "These (World TeamTennis matches) are actually great matches that help. A few times (last) week, I've had a no-ad deuce point and just been like, you know what, I'm just going to swing out here, and if I lose a point, too bad.
"My first goal is to get back into the top 20, and I feel like I'm on my way. Fortunately or unfortunately I didn't play all of last summer, so this summer I have no points to defend. So I'm going into every tournament basically with a clean slate."