Life comes at you fast. Just ask Jack Sock, former No. 8 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
In 2017, the American qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals after winning his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Paris. Two years later, he caught a medicine ball the wrong way, tearing ligaments in his right thumb and leaving him on a grueling road back to recovery. In 2020, he seemed poised for a major comeback after reaching the final at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Indian Wells. One week later, the ATP Tour, and the rest of the world, was shut down due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
But the 28-year-old is still determined to make his way back to the top of the Rankings. The signs are starting to come together, after he reached his first ATP Tour quarter-final since 2018 in Newport – where he also won the doubles title, partnered with William Blumberg. It’s what Sock has been fighting for since he began plotting his comeback more than two years ago.
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“We sat down after I came back from my thumb surgery, and then obviously with COVID-19 we definitely sat down – [my coach, Alex Bogomolov], my wife, everyone – and said, if we’re going to do this then the goal is to be competing to win tournaments and be one of the best players in the world,” Sock told ATPTour.com at the Truist Atlanta Open. “If not, if that doesn’t happen, then I’ve done a lot in the sport and I’m proud of it. But there’s not much point in wasting time if you’re not ready to go after it again.
“My goal is definitely to do everything in my power to be the best I can in singles again, and then see what happens… I’m excited to show everybody where I’m at and that I’m back and ready to go.”
Despite the tough stretch, the past few years have not been all bad for Sock. While he describes his on court struggles as “a rollercoaster”, it’s juxtaposed with some of the happiest moments of Sock’s personal life: he married longtime girlfriend Laura Little last December.
He also spent part of 2020 helping to plan their wedding, as well as navigating the logistics of a mid-pandemic cross-country move from his home state of Nebraska to his wife’s hometown in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“When we took the next step in getting engaged and started planning the wedding, trying to find a home in Charlotte and moving into a new home during the pandemic… it was tough,” Sock reflected. “But in a way, it would have been even tougher if the season was normal and we were trying to do it in between tournaments. So it was actually kind of nice to know we’d be home for a while and be able to enjoy it.”
The move also meant the American could be closer to his coach Bogomolov, who runs a tennis academy in the suburbs of Charlotte, as they prepared for his comeback. Sock had been sidelined for so long that he briefly lost his FedEx ATP Ranking. On social media, even his fans and followers were becoming sceptical.
“Every time I post something related to tennis, I would get comments saying ‘Wait, I thought you retired?’ or ‘When are you playing tennis again?’ or whatever,” he said. “It was just kind of funny, to be honest. Obviously, I knew I was about to start playing again.”
After starting the season ranked No. 273 in March, Sock has continued his steady rise after shaving 72 spots from his FedEx ATP Ranking.
While his comeback has been kicking into high gear at ATP Tour events after taking wild cards into Newport and Atlanta, it has been taking shape at the Challengers for much longer. In April, Sock won the doubles trophy in Orlando with Mitchell Krueger, and a month later he was back in the winners’ circle in singles in Little Rock.
“That was huge, in terms of confidence,” Sock said. “A lot of people were doubting me, but I had an awesome support team around me… They’ve always believed in me together, and collectively we’ve all stayed positive and kept pushing. We knew that if we kept putting the work in, I could hold the trophy again.”
Sock, who lifted the doubles trophy in Atlanta in 2014 (w/ Pospisil), will start his campaign at the ATP 250 in doubles on Monday. Partnered with good friend Nick Kyrgios, they will face third seeds Divij Sharan and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. He will take on Ricardas Berankis in his opening singles match.