Sock finished 2018 with a 9-22 tour-level record. In January 2019, he tore two ligaments in his thumb. From the start of last season through arriving at the US Open last month, the American added just two more triumphs. But against a tricky opponent in Pablo Cuevas, Sock found a way to win in a final-set tie-break for his first Grand Slam victory since 2018 at Flushing Meadows.
“I think that was my kind of sigh of relief. It wasn’t necessarily winning. Obviously winning the match felt great,” Sock said. “Even if I lost that 7-6 in the fifth, just kind of put myself in that position again to be there physically, where probably a lot of people would doubt me.
“I’m not opposed to silencing some haters after the past couple years I’ve gone through. I’ve read and seen enough of it, heard enough of it. I’m kind of ready to reestablish myself out there, let people know that I’m back, I’m feeling good. If I’m playing well and doing the right things, I think I can compete with anyone.”
At his best, Sock has proven that he is capable of doing so. He won the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters to book his spot at that year’s Nitto ATP Finals, climbing as high as No. 8 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Armed with a massive forehand, the American has earned nine victories against Top 10 opposition. But during his tough stretch, he fell out of the rankings completely and is currently World No. 310.
“When you go from Top 10 to not winning any matches to [for the] first time in your life really on a tennis court not having much confidence in yourself, I think it’s a massive eye opener, Sock said. “I’ve always been a confident player out there. I feel like if I’m playing good tennis, I can compete against anybody in the world. To go out and play matches, not have belief in your shots, think that you can lose to anybody at any time, is quite a different feeling.”
Something that has helped Sock head in the right direction is hiring former World No. 33 Alex Bogomolov Jr. as his coach. It was almost coincidental that they teamed up, as Sock’s fiancee is from Charlotte, and Bogomolov Jr. was in Charlotte.
“He definitely pushes me and challenges me on court. He definitely instills that work ethic, that mental toughness. I think I’m showing it the weeks that I’m playing now, weeks we’ve been able to play. I feel some of the best I felt on court in a long time,” Sock said. “To have someone like that in your corner pushing you and having that positivity, someone having that confidence in you, obviously outside of your family and close [friends] and loved ones, a guy of that stature who played on Tour, it only helps me out there for sure.”
When Sock is at his best, he relentlessly attacks with his forehand and tries to control play on the court, while also using his speed to keep him in points few would be able to stay in. When he wasn’t succeeding, there would be plenty of unforced errors and an apparent lack of confidence. That is a department in which Bogomolov Jr. has helped.
“He’s instilled that confidence in me again through practices, hitting with him, practice matches against people. He keeps pounding in your head that, ‘You have been at that level, you are that player, you are that player. It doesn’t just go away,’” Sock said. “Getting the reps in, getting fit in the head, mentally, everything together has given me the confidence on the court again. I feel as good as maybe I ever have out there.”
“I heard he’s pretty good on clay,” Sock said with deadpan humour of the man who has reached the past two Roland Garros finals. “I heard he played all right a few weeks ago in New York. I think he’s being called the new king of clay after Nadal. He loves it here. Had some amazing results here. Probably playing the best tennis of his life or some of, winning his first Grand Slam a few weeks ago.”
But Sock also knows he must step on court with a positive mentality. That is what’s helped get him back on track in the first place.
“I also think I’m a good player. I’m going to stick to my patterns, stick to my game, hopefully try to dictate some points, control some of the match on my racquet,” Sock said. “If he’s doing that on his side of the court, moving you around, controlling points, it’s not going to be a very good day against him. I’ll have to do what I can to try to kind of stick to my play and see how it goes.”