New Coach, New Game Plan For Sock In Washington
He came forward on booming first serves and bouncy second offerings, after heavy forehands and skidding returns. The eighth-seeded American sprinted to the centre 21 times, winning 15 of those attempts, or more than 70 per cent, against the big-serving Marius Copil of Romania, who came forward only 12 times.
The aggressive style of play has gained new emphasis for Sock, who recently changed coaches. After working with Troy Hahn for three successful years, the 24 year old now works with Jay Berger, formerly the head of men's tennis for USTA Player Development.
Berger, who stepped down from his role in June after 15 years with the USTA, enjoyed a successful playing career before turning to coaching. The New Jersey native reached No. 7 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and won three ATP World Tour titles. Through the USTA, Berger has interacted with Sock throughout the past seven years.
“He's been in my corner for so many years now. I just really like his energy, his mindset. I had a great run with Troy. We were together three years. He's got a newborn kid and needs to spend some time with his family, which is completely understandable,” Sock said.
“It was kind of a perfect moment in time and opportunity, with Jay resigning and moving on from the USTA after 15 years with them. We've always had a great relationship, and it helps we both love playing golf outside of tennis as well.”
Sock, who's long sought to control points with his serve and forehand, will look to conserve energy by ending points at the net as well. “I feel comfortable at the net. I've had some doubles success. I like being up there,” he said. “It's a little bit part of the game plan now.”
It’s no surprise Sock is comfortable at net. The Nebraska native spends plenty of time there on the doubles court. Sock has won eight tour-level doubles titles with five different partners, including the 2014 Wimbledon crown and the 2015 BNP Paribas Open title in Indian Wells, both with Canadian Vasek Pospisil. Last year, Sock paired with countryman John Isner to win the Rolex Shanghai Masters.
Berger is hoping to showcase Sock's skills around the net – “his touch, his feel and his ability to make shots in very unusual positions” – and his other strengths with the aggressive strategy.
“I think that he has some of the best weapons in the game in his serve, speed and forehand. We want to continue to work on his strengths and just add little parts to his game slowly,” Berger said.
Sock burst out of the proverbial gates to start the year. He won two ATP World Tour titles in the first two months – ASB Classic in Auckland (d. Sousa) and the Delray Beach Open (w/o Raonic).
In Indian Wells, Sock reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final before falling to eventual champion Roger Federer. He backed it up in Miami with a quarter-final run (l. to Nadal).
But since then, the American has played .500 tennis, going 7-7, including his second-round win at the Citi Open. He withdrew from the Aegon Championships in London in June because of a knee injury, which also hampered him at Wimbledon.
Back on the U.S. hard courts, though, Sock hopes to emulate his childhood heroes and please the home fans with a title or two on home turf.
“We have a great history of champions. The U.S. tennis fan base is, I mean, not spoiled, but look, we've had so many great players come through here, so many Grand Slam champions, No. 1s in the world. It's understandable, I get it. If I was a tennis fan I'd want someone up there as well,” Sock said.
“Obviously we're doing our best... We don't want to stay around 17, 18 in the world. We all want to move up and be the next No. 1 or be the next Grand Slam champion. So we're all working towards that.”