The United States is still looking for a male tennis player to come along and revitalize the sport in America. Is it possible that Jack Sock could be the nations best hope for a major champion?
It has been well over a decade since an American man has won a major tennis title. In fact, the last to do it was Andy Roddick in 2003. Since that time, tennis in America has seen a decline in interest as sports like basketball and football have dominated. Tennis in the U.S.A. needs a male player to help revitalize the general public’s interest. That player just might be Jack Sock.
24-year-old Jack Sock made the change from talented up and comer to contender in 2016 when he made the third round of the French Open. Since then, he has not exited any major tournament before the third round. He has now become a top 20 tennis player (ranked 15th) and in the process overtaken John Isner as the top American in the world.
Sock started catching people’s attention in 2016 when he made the round of 16 at the US Open. He ended up losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets. However, before his fourth round loss, he defeated seventh seeded Marin Čilić in straight sets. With this new found success, Sock looks to push himself to the next level and get closer to holding a trophy at a major tournament.
What makes Sock’s game special?
Sock’s game is centered around one thing: power. He wins by pushing people off the baseline with heavy ground strokes and a serve capable of reaching 140 miles per hour. He then looks to attack and finish with his forehand. This one two punch has been the bread and butter of other American players such as John Isner, Sam Querrey, and Andy Roddick. If Sock’s game is similar to other Americans, then what sets him apart? Two things: his on-court movement and drive.
Players like the aforementioned Roddick and Isner relied almost entirely on their serve to win matches. If they had an off day serving, they weren’t able to supplement with their return game. Part of the struggle for these players was that their movement was lacking (especially for the 6’ 10” Isner). Sock is still relatively tall at 6’ 3” but is more agile on the court and therefore capable of winning more points off of the return. He can also win in a variety of ways as opposed to strictly bombing serves. He is a solid defensive player and can run down more balls than many of his compatriots.
In addition to his physical skills, Sock simply won’t settle for less than number one. He has been known to practice even after matches and was quoted in February as saying that he won’t be content as just a top 20 player, he wants more. This attitude is refreshing when compared with some of the less driven players on the tour.
“Not many people can say they’ve been the top player in their sport in all of the U.S. But my goals and aspirations are higher than top 20 in the world. I want to be top 10, top five. I want to win Slams and be No. 1 one day.” – Jack Sock
What stands in his way?
While Sock seems to be on the right track, there is by no means a guarantee that he will win a major. In men’s tennis, the big four still reign supreme. In fact, in the last ten years, only three players not named Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, or Raphael Nadal have won major tournaments (five events total). That’s an astonishing 35 out of 40 wins for the big four.
Aside from the big name players, there are also several young players posing potential challenges for Sock. 23-year-olds Dominic Thiem of Austria and Lucas Pouille of France are ranked ahead of Sock at ninth and fourteenth respectively. Two other young players looking to contend are 22-year-old Nick Kyrios of Australia at seventeenth and 20-year-old Alexander Zverev of Germany sitting in the twentieth spot. This combination of major champions and up-and-comers makes the road to the top extremely difficult.
What’s in store this year for Sock?
After getting to the third round of the Australian Open in February, Sock hopes to get farther at the French Open. He actually reached the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2015 and looks to break through to his first quarterfinal in a major. Making it to at least the quarterfinals of a major and getting into the top ten by the end of the year would be an achievable goal.
For years now, American tennis fans have been waiting for a legitimate contender. Now, they just might have one in Jack Sock.