One simple change to make Sock an elite player

bjk

Hall of Fame
#1
Sock is now serving and volleying, as you can see in these highlights against Harrison. He's not a great volleyer but he does have good touch around the net. Here is the problem though: his serve is too slow. He can't be an elite player with that serve. The problem is that he "walks into" the serve like G Simon and he doesn't generate any pace. In fact he serves slower than Harrison and his serve might even be slower than Donaldson, who is not half as good an athlete as Sock.

He needs to get rid of his step into the serve and keep his front foot stationary. He can keep the pinpoint serve motion but he needs to keep that front foot in one spot, get some knee bend, and then explode into his serve. I can't believe his coaches haven't tried to fix his serve. So what do the TT experts think? What is wrong with Sock's serve?

 
#7
It is not just his serve speed that will make him a better server but he needs to serve smarter. Mainly place the ball better and mix up serves better. This is why I think Isner struggles sometimes, just blasting all his 1st serves at 100% allows for the opponent to read it better, why not go for kickers on the occasional 1st serve to keep them guessing.
 
#11
According to the ATP stats, over the last 52 weeks, among the top 75, he's 15th-best in first serve points won and 14th-best in second serve points won, and 18th in service games won.

Both of those are better than his overall ranking.

On the other hand, his return stats are worse than his ranking - he's about 50th on a few stats there.

It's not a perfect system, but it does I think show that Sock's return game is what's holding him back, not the service game. Obviously, his serve game also has room to improve, he's no Isner or Karlovic. But then again, there isn't any easy fix to magically make someone serve as well as Isner or Karlovic.
 
#16
IMO he seems too nice to be a top contander. Just look at the big 4 - when they are down in the score they get angry, become meaner and just don't like to lose. Subconsciously this kind of mindset helps you to find a way to fight, Socks just gives smiles left and right. He seems like a really nice guy but right now tennis is a very competititve sport !
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
#18
According to the ATP stats, over the last 52 weeks, among the top 75, he's 15th-best in first serve points won and 14th-best in second serve points won, and 18th in service games won.

Both of those are better than his overall ranking.

On the other hand, his return stats are worse than his ranking - he's about 50th on a few stats there.

It's not a perfect system, but it does I think show that Sock's return game is what's holding him back, not the service game. Obviously, his serve game also has room to improve, he's no Isner or Karlovic. But then again, there isn't any easy fix to magically make someone serve as well as Isner or Karlovic.
The question is, what part of his game will get him the most juice. Usually the easiest way to improve is to maximize the strength, not improve the weakness. Stevie Johnson is higher ranked than Sock and Johnson's backhand is the worst backhand on tour except maybe Karlovic/Groth. Sock is not making the most of his serve-forehand combo. His forehand is so good that with a decent serve he really should be able to get over 88% holds, from 84%. It's his serve holding him back. Sock wins just 59% of his first serve points, below G Simon and D Goffin and 30th overall.
 
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bjk

Hall of Fame
#20
I saw him practice his serve when he was visiting DC for the Citi open. He seems to slice every serve a bit, he doesn't hit a really flat serve. Sock is an independent guy, I wonder if he didn't deliberately go for the anti-Roddick serve. His motion is definitely unique. He hits it pretty stiff legged.
 
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#21
He is a bit overweight (can lose couple of pounds), but that BH, would be very difficult to improve.
One has to have at least decent one to become elite player.
Can't say much about his mentality bc I don't know much about it.
 
#22
His serve is as good as anyone who is not a tree when on. His problem isn't power. It's percentage. It's not that unusual for him to serve in the 40-50% range for a match. He takes pace off of his serve when he is missing them. He has a big second serve, but he double faults more than average. His biggest problem is the return itself mainly. A man who has hit 145 mph on serve doesn't have a power problem.
 
#23
What Sock needs to do:

- Improve his tactical game / concentration / margin of error on big points.
- Improve return of serve consistency and shot selection

A big myth on Sock is that he is somehow unfit / overweight / out of condition. Because he is rawboned and doesn't have cheese grater abdominal muscles people think he is not an incredible athlete. This is not true and his athleticism is just fine. In terms of power / explosiveness / agility he is already seriously elite. He will have increased endurance as he enters his mid-20's.
 
#24
This is my first post ever on TT after lurking for a few months. I just got back into watching tennis after a long, long, long time. (Check my profile for details).

Sock is one of my favorite current players.

I am no tennis guru and I'm going by watching lots of condensed match highlights rather than full matches mainly, but here's what I see.

I think his inside-out forehand is the best on the tour. And maybe this will surprise people and raise disagreement, but I don't think it's the backhand that loses him many crucial points. It's no weapon to be sure but he uses it pragmatically and is great at running around for the forehand, obviously. What I actually see kill him often on missed break points and other key moments that keep him out of the top 10 is netcording a DTL forehand. When he has opened up that court space with big hitting his eyes get greedy and he cranks up the whiplash action from an open stance and quite, quite often doesn't get enough lift on it. That is fixable I believe and could be worth a game or two in almost every match.

I agree that the serve is not going to either keep him out of or put him in the Top 10. It is not decisively a strength or weakness.

I've seen reports that he worked hard on his stamina this past offseason but it seems like he does not have the physiology of a grinder, and I believe he consciously tanks points, games and even sets that he gets far enough behind in to conserve energy strategically, even though he is not a bad mover at all actually in the short time scale. Maybe that annoys some people on a philosophical level but it seems wise.

It is still early doors but I believe I have seen some new wrinkles to Sock's game in 2017 so far, we'll see if they stick. Not going to list them all here but for example he seems to be almost SABRing on some second serves, choosing to gamble in order to get more juice into his return game. I don't know if it's smart but it's gutsy and I like it.

Sock is the only hope for American tennis so I am rooting for a breakthrough 2017!
 
#27
One thing I hope he doesn't change is his go for it attitude. Break point, set point, match point he never tightens up and stays offensively minded.
The backhand has looked stronger in recent months and may yet become a weapon but that is his main weakness.
 
#28
Serve's fine. He's just not a slam contender. Doesn't have the game, the mind, or the body for it.
Not so sure but I see your points.

Sock's 2HBH is a liability. In Hopman Cup Final vs Gasquett, I think Sock made 3 UFEs in 3rd set TB on 2HBH and that alone pretty much sealed the deal.

Sock's mental approach needs to improve. At times, he seems to fight well and compete but there's a petulance about him when he gets behind at crucial times. He seems to lose maturity and focus and shows too much negative emotion when it is most crucial like end of a close set.

Sock also doesn't seem to get a lot of 1st serves at crucial times either.

His 2HBH has improved but it need another positive bump.

If he can improve the 2HBH and work on maintaining focus at crucial times, I think he can contend and maybe win a hardcourt slam.
 

bjk

Hall of Fame
#31
Sock does seem to tank some points and games, and sometimes he shows off when he should be trying to win points. Sock is definitely not a grinder, he doesn't have the mentality of a grinder. He gets bored and likes hitting drop shots, bunts, serve and volley, etc. That experimentation is starting to pay off, you can see he's winning a lot of the net rallies. You take the good with the bad . . . he doesn't grind, but he's actually having fun out there unlike Donaldson or Querrey or some of these tennis bots.
 
#32
Sock does seem to tank some points and games, and sometimes he shows off when he should be trying to win points. Sock is definitely not a grinder, he doesn't have the mentality of a grinder. He gets bored and likes hitting drop shots, bunts, serve and volley, etc. That experimentation is starting to pay off, you can see he's winning a lot of the net rallies. You take the good with the bad . . . he doesn't grind, but he's actually having fun out there unlike Donaldson or Querrey or some of these tennis bots.
Yea, I've seen the mental lapses too. Hard to put your finger on it, but he gets weird at the wrong times. I think he loses some matches just because of the mental "condition" he has.
 
#34
Serve's fine. He's just not a slam contender. Doesn't have the game, the mind, or the body for it.
This thread is the biggest joke i've ever seen.

Jack Sock DOES HAVE 2 GRAND SLAM TITLES and a GOLD MEDAL!!! /in yo face. He's already elite and I see him winning a singles Grand Slam one day and becoming the #1 American within 3 years. mark my words.
 
#37
One thing I hope he doesn't change is his go for it attitude. Break point, set point, match point he never tightens up and stays offensively minded.
The backhand has looked stronger in recent months and may yet become a weapon but that is his main weakness.
The Johnson match was a great illustration of the vast difference between a TRUE liability backhand and Sock's backhand, which is really not as bad as people make it out to be (at least, not anymore). I think Sock's BH slice has also improved as well as the THBH.
 
#41
He is a bit overweight (can lose couple of pounds), but that BH, would be very difficult to improve.
One has to have at least decent one to become elite player.
Can't say much about his mentality bc I don't know much about it.
You stole my post, hopefully he realizes he is overweight right now rather than like fish at the end of his career.
 
#43
You stole my post, hopefully he realizes he is overweight right now rather than like fish at the end of his career.
Yeah Fish best results came when he lost a weight (2011) but he obviously had some health issues before . I always liked easy power of his shots, especially from the BH side.
 

Red Rick

Talk Tennis Guru
#44
Sock seemed to flatten out the forehand a little more often now, which is a really good thing if he executes it well. If he figures out when to hit massive spin and when to hit with pace he can be dangerous. Still, his hold game isn't good enough for a guy with his talent.
 
#50
What Sock needs to do:

- Improve his tactical game / concentration / margin of error on big points.
- Improve return of serve consistency and shot selection

A big myth on Sock is that he is somehow unfit / overweight / out of condition. Because he is rawboned and doesn't have cheese grater abdominal muscles people think he is not an incredible athlete. This is not true and his athleticism is just fine. In terms of power / explosiveness / agility he is already seriously elite. He will have increased endurance as he enters his mid-20's.
It's not a myth. He is unfit (not talking about his thicker build).
Look at the amount of times he has withdrawn, or suffered through matches in the heat.

Also his backhand and return aren't very good.
 
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