EMIRATES ATP RANKINGS - STARS OF TOMORROW
Stars Of Tomorrow: Jack Sock
New York, U.S.A.
by Alison Kim|
Jack Sock sees an opportunity. With the camera rolling on John Isner in the foreground, the young American sticks out his chest and struts across the grass. He does a 180 on his impromptu catwalk and pauses behind an unsuspecting Isner, donning his best Blue Steel look for the camera - his signature duck face - before continuing on his way.
That's just what you get from the 21-year-old Sock. He'll take a break from his lunch to whip out his camera phone and play reporter at Isner's press conference. He'll do his best Naked Gun dance impression on the mound of the Great American Ballpark. He'll envelop fans in warm hugs and spring silly faces for their selfies. He'll celebrate the night of his Grand Slam triumph at Wimbledon by playing Monopoly. He'll put on his game face while shooting tennis balls in a trash can in the hotel room with his coach.
“He’s full of life,” says coach Troy Hahn. “A lot of jokes, a lot of laughs. He enjoys being around the game, having fun, not taking things too seriously off the court, in a relaxed environment, and competing in certain things...
“Whether it’s cards, he and I are just messing around playing poker, we want to win; or mini-tennis game, warming up, we’re going to put something on it; soccer, juggling a soccer ball. Everything is a game or a competition, and having fun.”
In the midst of all the fun and games, Sock has had quite the summer to remember on the court, beginning with his incredible team debut with Vasek Pospisil at Wimbledon, where they unseated four seeded duos to lift the trophy.
When he arrived in Newport a couple days later, he shared what now seems like a modest target. “I usually don’t set number goals really much, but I’m thinking Top 50 by the end of the year,” he told ATPWorldTour.com. “I’d be pretty happy with that and put myself in position for the beginning of next year to hopefully make another jump. But [my goal is] mainly just trying to get better and focusing day in and day out on improving my game, improving everything I can do to put myself in position to win.”
Fast-forward six weeks, and Sock has already climbed 20 spots to a career-high No. 55 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on the back of his first two ATP World Tour semi-finals in Newport and Atlanta - each time losing to the eventual champion - and second-round runs in Washington and Toronto, both times giving Milos Raonic a run for his money.
His 20 match wins going into the US Open is already double his total for all of 2013, which marked the first time he'd even left the country.
“Last year helped a lot,” Sock says. “For me it was my first full year of traveling and kind of really getting to know the tour, so this year I feel a lot more comfortable out there and maybe that’s also why I’ve had some success this year. I think it’s just kinda getting to understand everything that’s going on.”
This past March, Sock paid a visit to Isner following the Sarasota Challenger and experienced first-hand the benefits of training at Saddlebrook. It didn’t take long for him to uproot from Los Angeles - his home of the past couple years - and relocate to a condo in downtown Tampa.
A typical day at Saddlebrook starts at 8:30am and includes a couple hours of tennis, followed by an hour-and-a-half in the gym with fitness trainer Kyle Morgan. On days with longer training blocks, they'll get on the court a second time.
“The older tennis guys have been dominating, so we know it takes a lot of work,” says Sock. “I’ve put in a lot of work and my body’s kind of changed a lot. I’ve lost some weight and am in pretty good shape now, so I’m able to compete match-in and match-out and put myself in positions to win. I think it’s paid off this year.”
He also enlisted a new coach, Hahn, after spending some time on court with him during the second week of Wimbledon. Hahn calls Sock's forehand, serve and movement the strongest parts of his game, and plans to continue building on those strengths to make him a more complete all-around player.
“I definitely think the kid can be Top 10,” says Hahn. “I think he can put himself in position to compete for Grand Slams. I know one of his big goals is to play Davis Cup, as well, and be a fixture on the Davis Cup team for the U.S. I see those things happening for him 100 per cent. I think he wants it bad enough. When it comes to putting it on the line, I don’t think there’s too many people better.”
While singles will remain Sock's focus, his results on the doubles court have definitely played an integral part in his growth. He claimed the 2011 US Open mixed doubles title alongside Melanie Oudin - just one year after winning the junior singles title - before collecting his second Grand Slam crown at Wimbledon.
“It’s taken his confidence to a new level,” says Hahn. “It feels like he fits in among, not only the singles, but the best doubles guys in the world. He sees the respect they show him, not only from being a one-time Grand Slam champion, but two. It shows. He walks around, he feels he fits in. He’s comfortable. It’s just taken everything to a new level.”
Sock and Pospisil recorded a historic 14-0 start to their partnership before a runner-up finish to the Bryan brothers at the Western & Southern Open. Entering the US Open, they stand at No. 6 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Race To London and in prime position to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
“I’ve heard it’s an unbelievable event and an absolutely amazing job they do there, and kind of a special event to play in,” says Sock. “If we’re able to partake in that at the end of the year, it’ll be very special for us.”
Sock has the nickname “Showtime” for a reason. Walking out onto the court in front of 17,500 people underneath the lights and music at The O2 may provide that extra little bit of hunger for Sock to get back there one day – this time, as one of the Top 8 singles players.