Sock at the double as singles career falters

2017 was a defining year in Jack Sock’s career. The ATP tour was in a period of drastic transition, as established stars fell down the rankings due to injury and left a gap for newcomers to climb to new heights.

Sock was one of the beneficiaries, with a title at the Paris Masters propelling him to a career-high ranking of 8 and the added bonus of a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals. Sock beat Slam champion Marin Cilic and the Next Gen poster boy Alexander Zverev to make the semi-final in London. Things were looking rosy, but Sock has wilted this year. 2018 may also be a defining year in Sock’s career, but for the wrong reasons.

Odd Sock

By the end of Wimbledon and with well over half of the year behind him, Sock had only mustered six wins in 2018. Sixteen defeats restricted Sock to the 154th spot in the ATP Race, with the chances of him appearing in consecutive ATP World Tour Finals looking somewhat slim. At the close of Wimbledon, Sock was clinging on to an extremely respectable 14th place in the rankings. Yet 1000 of his 2075 ranking points come from his Paris win; if Sock can’t defend his title, he will plummet down the rankings.

Of course, much hinges on how Sock can save his year in the coming months. He has shown few encouraging signs. Sock’s French Open ended in the first round to Jurgen Zopp, with the Estonian more accustomed to racking up wins in Challengers than Grand Slams. Sock then surrendered a two-set lead to Matteo Berrettini in the first round at Wimbledon, with the Italian an exciting prospect but one with no pedigree on grass. Sock showed his frustrations against Berrettini, incurring a $5000 fine for inappropriate outbursts.

The US Open is the remaining Grand Slam of the year, and Sock will be eyeing it up as a potential place to make up for the horrors of the previous Slams. Sock will arrive in Flushing Meadows with no ranking points to defend as a result of a first-round loss in five sets to Jordan Thompson, a match which reports Sock called an ‘utter disappointment’. Clearly first-round defeats in five sets to massive outsiders has become a trend for Sock, but he still has a baseline game and serve that can provide headaches for any opponent. As of 16th July, Sock is at a price of 100/1 to claim the US Open title, with the long odds reflecting his 2018 woes. However, if Sock can regain form and composure on court then he cannot be considered such a sizeable outsider.

An American spring

The New York Times reported how Sock is unable to pinpoint the reasons for his decline. One thing is for certain: Sock is not struggling when it comes to playing doubles. Sock partnered Mike Bryan at Wimbledon to claim his second Grand Slam title in the men’s doubles at that tournament, in addition to his mixed doubles trophy from the 2011 US Open. In an era where very few of the men’s top players ever play doubles, let alone have success, Sock is an anomaly. Sock is considered one of the finest male doubles player, with Five Thirty Eight just one outlet that endorses his skill. He would have surely reached the ATP World Tour Finals in 2017 as both a singles and doubles player if he had played with a consistent partner through the year. It may be that the Wimbledon title can give Sock a confidence boost to translate to his singles game. At the very least, it demonstrates that Sock can make a formidable living as a doubles player if his disappointment in the singles continues.

Sock will be emboldened by the fortunes of compatriot John Isner, who contributed to an epic Wimbledon semi-final in his eventual defeat to Kevin Anderson. Isner’s booming serve enables him to counteract the effects of being in his thirties, with 6ft 10in star established in the top ten of the rankings. Young Americans Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson are all moving upward, suggesting the future of American tennis is bright. At 26, Sock can very much still be the poster boy for that future. He may never have the success in singles that he has achieved in doubles, but Sock is too talented for his miserable form to endure. He’s certainly due a win.