By Ashley Babich
Andy Roddick shocked many in the tennis community this week when he announced his impending retirement at the 2012 US Open. (He even surprised some who don’t follow tennis so closely, as my grandma called to tell me, with much concern, that she heard the “cute American tennis player is retiring.”)
The conversation has been in play for a while, and most can’t discuss Andy’s retirement without immediately following up with a discussion about who will carry the torch for American tennis once Andy has moved on to happier days with his wife Brooklyn, and hopefully, babies.
While there are many players who could possibly be the face of American tennis, it will be hard to fill Andy’s red, white, and blue shoes. (Did you see those in his match against Tomic? Go America!)
Anyway, I’m here to talk about Jack Sock.
He’s 19-years-old, ranked 243rd in the world, and made his way into the US Open as a wild card. He made his first ever appearance in the third round this weekend and lost to the 11th-seed, Nicolas Almagro, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-1, taking the Spaniard to three straight tiebreakers before easily giving up the fourth set.
Does Jack Sock have a lot to learn? Yes. In that match against Almagro, Sock converted just one of 11 break points and had 52 unforced errors overall in the match, compared to Almagro’s 24.
Yet, in my opinion, he has great potential to become, well, great. While his errors are hefty in number, so are his winners. He had 56 winners this match, while the world No. 12 Almagro had 53. Sock has an aggressive forehand, a great serve, and even gets up to the net for volleys from time to time.
In addition, his on-court demeanor is something to talk about. Compared to a couple of other Americans players, no names mentioned of course, Sock seems to be able to remain calm and manage frustration when things aren’t going his way. (Though, he might want to work on the nerves. Sock gave away some easy points in the always-stressful tiebreaks.)
While Sock still has growing to do, and matches to play, he does have some experience under his belt. He won the boys’ Junior US Open Championship in 2010, and he won the 2011 mixed doubles title at the US Open with fellow one-time American hope, Melanie Oudin.
During this fortnight, much conversation will be had about who our nation can cheer on next, and I think Sock has drummed up just enough excitement to keep his name in the mix. The next few years will prove telling for the American, though. Andy Roddick won his US Open title at the age of 21, so I guess we can sit back and watch as Sock chases down his own place in the history of American tennis.
And speaking of grandmas, Sock seems to have a pretty funny one. As he and Oudin kindly signed autographs for anyone who waited around in Court 17 after their exciting first-round mixed doubles win, his grandma snuck into the line and asked him to sign a band aid. Sock jokingly responded, “Get out of here, grandma. I’ll see you later at dinner.”