Sock On Injury: 'It Was Potentially The Biggest Blessing In Disguise'
After qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals in singles in 2017, Jack Sock finished the 2018 season at No. 106 in the ATP Rankings with a 9-22 tour-level record. This January, things went from bad to worse. During a practise at the Australian Open, the American tore two ligaments in his thumb.
Positive things don’t always come the way you expect, but, in a way, the six months Sock missed before returning at this week’s BB&T Atlanta Open have rejuvenated him.
“2018 was a year to forget. January was a month to forget here. It’s never great to get injured. It’s very unfortunate to get injured obviously, but I think it was potentially the biggest blessing in disguise for my career,” Sock told ATPTour.com. “So to be able to take those months and get a new mentality, enjoy playing the sport again and get excited about playing and come back out, I’ll be ready to fire.”
From the 2014 Australian Open through his trip to Melbourne this year, Sock missed just one Grand Slam. He travelled the world week-in and week-out, capturing four ATP Tour singles trophies and climbing as high as No. 8 in the ATP Rankings. But for six months, he was back to ‘normal’ life.
“Obviously the biggest difference was just not being on the road every week. It was weird and amazing being home for months at a time. It’s weird being at home for that long and being in the United States for that long,” Sock said. “We’re usually out and about, so that was probably the biggest difference. I was able to spend time with family and friends, so it’s been amazing.”
As far as recovering, Sock's thumb was so impaired that there were times when he couldn’t use a Q-Tip or brush his teeth with his right hand. The injury wasn’t just keeping him off the court, but it was interfering with his daily life.
“If there’s a really tight bottle cap, I still can’t open it normally,” Sock said. “It definitely gets in the way sometimes, but now I’m able to do pretty much everything.”
Sock’s biggest weapon is his forehand, which he torques with heavy topspin to either hit winners past his opponents or at least open up the court. Part of producing that stroke involves putting pressure on the grip with his thumb, which took time for him to be able to do.
“It’s still a little stiff. I was hoping to maybe start a little bit earlier than this and maybe have played a couple tournaments leading into the [US Open Series], but you don’t realise how much you need your thumb in daily life and in tennis and how I hold it, the forehand was the last thing I was able to do,” Sock said. “It’s still a little stiff. It’ll be stiff for maybe a year to 18 months they said, but I’m able to manage it and play.”
More than anything, Sock is happy to be back on the court. In the first round in Atlanta, he will face Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic.
“Overall I feel very refreshed. I’m excited to play again, which I haven’t been able to say that in a long time,” Sock said. “I’m definitely excited to get out there and compete again.”
Sock is currently World No. 180. But to him, his ranking is of little consequence at the moment. In reality, the American is starting fresh.
“I’m just going to go play tennis for the first time in a while. I’m just going to go be happy on the court and enjoy playing and I’ll be the underdog now, which will be nice. I’ll be the ranking underdog and be able to go out and play free and have a smile on my face,” Sock said. “If I win, amazing. If I don’t win, I’m out there playing again. It’s not going to bother me.”