Brain Game: Sock's Forehand Potency In Paris
The American sticks to his strengths for first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown
Upgrade, double and freeze. Jack Sock successfully tapped into the three main benefits of hitting a run-around forehand instead of a backhand from the baseline in the Ad court to defeat Filip Krajinovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 in the final of the Rolex Paris Masters on Sunday.
Sock relentlessly hunted forehands in the Ad court as his Serbian opponent pummeled that side of the court trying to give Sock a steady diet of backhands. Overall for the match, Sock hit 132 groundstrokes (62%) standing in the Ad court, and just 81 (38%) in the Deuce court. The following breakdown illustrates the American's thirst for the more lethal run-around forehand when standing in the Ad court.
Court Position & Stroke - Where Sock Stood To Contact The Ball.
• Deuce Court Forehands = 81
• Ad Court Forehands = 67
• Ad Court Backhands = 65
Sock's backhand groundstroke did it's job of minimizing errors, and getting out of the way of the run-around forehand at every opportunity.
Shots Hit Standing In The Ad Court
• 67 run around forehands = 15 winners / 7 errors
• 65 backhands = 3 winners / 10 errors
When adding winners and subtracting errors, Sock's run-around forehand from the Ad court tallied +8 (15 winners - 7 errors), which was vastly superior to the -7 total (3 winners - 10 errors) that his backhand produced. Sock hit a lot of off-pace slice backhands to give Krajinovic no speed of shot to work with, and also to allow time for Sock to run around the next shot intended for his backhand and turn it into a forehand.
A good way to understand the relationship between forehands and backhands is that the forehand is the sword, that you attack more with, and the backhand is the shield, that you primarily defend with and look to minimize errors. Of the 15 run-around forehand winners Sock hit for the match, 11 of them were directed back behind Krajinovic to his backhand wing. This was the match-up that Sock constantly looked to enforce.
Double in this instance means doubling the target area to attack. If Sock was to continuously hit neutral backhands standing in the Ad court, the natural angle goes back cross court to Krajinovic's stronger backhand wing. By upgrading to a forehand from the Ad court, Sock can hit a more powerful groundstroke, and thus launch attacks to both the Deuce and Ad court.
Sock was constantly looking to freeze Krajinovic, essentially removing his anticipation because Sock’s open-stance, run-around forehand offers no visual clues as to where it will end up. It is beautifully disguised and steals tenths of seconds of anticipation, forcing more errors because it imposes less time to prepare.
Krajinovic committed 25 backhand errors for the match, with 14 of them coming straight from Sock's run-around forehand from the Ad court. Eight of the 14 errors from Krajinovic were trying to force backhands down the line from defensive positions. Leading into the Paris final, Krajinovic was hitting the majority of his backhands down the line, but doing it from Sock's run-around forehand in the final was a much tougher task.
Krajinovic Backhand Direction: To The Final
• 40% down the line
• 36% cross court
• 24% to the middle
Overall, Krajinovic committed 13 of his 25 backhand errors for the match going down the line. This successful pattern to the final ran into a buzz-saw in the form of the heavy spin and more powerful run-around forehands from Sock. At 5-7, 4-1 Sock's average topspin forehand speed was 132 km/h, while Krajinovic was only averaging 120km/h. Sock's heavy rotation of the forehand saw an average spin rate of 3364rpm, with Krajinovic hitting much flatter at 2506rpm. More power, more spin, and more determination to hit forehands instead of backhands made Sock a very tough match-up against the more traditional tactics of the Serb.
Sock was relentless at pounding the Krajinovic backhand with his forehand. For example, in Set Two Sock directed 60 per cent of his groundstrokes wide to the Krajinovic backhand, 13 per cent down the middle, and just 27 per cent to the outer third of the court to the Serb's forehand wing.
Run-Around Forehands vs. Normal Forehands
Sock's run-around forehand standing in the Ad court greatly outperformed his regular forehand hit when standing in the Deuce court.
Sock Forehands: Winners / Errors
• 67 run around forehands hit from the Ad court = 15 winners / 7 errors
• 81 regular forehands hit from the Deuce court = 5 winners / 12 errors
Sock's marauding baseline play promotes forehands to be struck from all baseline locations - especially from the Ad court. It's a reality of the modern game that the run-around forehand produces more winners and less errors than regular forehands, which is exactly how it played out in this match.
Serve +1 Forehands
Sock was always looking to combine the power of his serve with the strength of a forehand as the first shot after the serve - a tactic known as Serve +1. Overall for the match, Sock hit a substantial 88 per cent (38/43) forehands as the first shot after the serve, winning an impressive 66 per cent (25/38) of them. Of the five points that Sock started the point with a Serve +1 backhand, which were all second serve points, he failed to win a single one.
Sock's biggest advantage in the match was in the short rallies of 0-4 shots, where he had a 63-49 advantage in points won. Overall, Sock ran further than Krajinovic for the match (1813 metres to 1710 metres) mainly due to running around his backhand to upgrade to his forehand.
Sock's run-around forehand was the most dominant shot in the match, and serves as a blueprint for juniors all over the world to emulate. The run-around forehand wears the pants from the back of the court.