Our Q&A With the Tennis Pro is Aces
Recently ranked in the top 20 in the world, Jack Sock will be appearing in New York this year not only for the US Open but also to make a special stop at Madison Square Garden on March 6 playing in the BNP Paribas Showdown for World Tennis Day. After winning the ATP Men’s singles title at the ASB Classic in Auckland in January, Sock is primed to take on Australian upstart Nick Kyrgios at the showdown.
Coming off a double-medal Olympic games last summer, bronze in doubles and gold in mixed doubles, the young American is looking ahead to more career moments like that. In our chat with Jack we tried to find out where he keeps those medals (not much luck there), and he opened up about playing in New York, highlights from the Rio games, and what he wants to accomplish this year.
Tennis is a global sport, and you’ve played all over the world. But what’s different or special about playing in New York?
It’s a completely different feel. As an American it’s even different. It’s your home crowd. We have the US Open, for us the mecca, the biggest tournament of the year. I grew up watching every major, but especially the US Open–seeing all the amazing moments and historic memories from it. It’s incredible to be back here.
Outside of the tournament, I just love being in the city. There’s such a good feel to it. I don’t get to get here too often, so when I do I love to soak it all in. It amazes me every time I’m in the city. I’m definitely excited to be back for the US Open every year, but especially the showdown this month, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Who of your tennis idols have you had the chance to play with or against, and what did you learn from those matches?
When I first started, Agassi was kind of the guy. I practiced with him a few times and got to know him a little bit. Such a nice guy. I always try to pick his brain. He’s always willing to share his wisdom and knowledge and experience that he had.
Being from Nebraska, Andy Roddick has probably got to be the top idol of mine that I grew up watching, and even game-wise on the court we play fairly similarly: serving forehand, looking to attack. Probably one of my biggest tennis memories was him winning here in 2003 wearing the visor and the Reebok and everything.
I played him here my second US open on Arthur Ashe in a night match on a Friday. My first time on TV on ESPN and I was 18. I had no expectations of winning, and it was one of his last US Opens. I went out there like a kid in a candy store. I was just like, I can’t believe I’m out here, and the stadium looked a thousand times bigger than it was even though it’s the biggest we have. But I just really, really enjoyed being out there, and we’re good friends, both being from the same state and being on the tennis tour. We’re both die-hard Cornhusker fans.
Where do you keep your medals from Rio?
I don’t know if I want to say. They’re in Kansas City, I’ll say that.
Other than winning the gold, what was one of the most meaningful memories you took away from the whole experience?
I think the list is almost too long. The opening ceremony, we’ve seen it on TV and heard about it, but actually walking through it, honestly, it didn’t feel real. When you’re walking through the stadium and you see all the people sitting in there and you’re wearing the red, white, and blue, you’re part of the whole team.
I mean, it was surreal. Just the whole experience staying in the village, seeing all of the other athletes eat in the cafeteria. You go into to the game room, hanging out with everyone. Altogether, it was the coolest moment probably of my life.
Why do events like the BNP Paribas Showdown keep the sport fun for you?
I think it’s a chance for the players that are there to kind of show a different side. We’re so serious throughout the year and not showing much emotion on the court. For me, I’m a very outgoing and goofy guy and I like to engage with the fans and have fun. I’m looking forward to going out there and hopefully getting the crowd involved and hitting fun shots.
What’s something you didn’t get a chance to do the last time you were in NYC during the US Open that you want to do this year?
I haven’t been to the World Trade Center Memorial yet; I want to do that.
What are you hoping to accomplish in your career this year?
I set a goal in mind the beginning of the year to try to compete and win more singles titles. I had one a few years ago. That was a great feeling, and when you win one of those you definitely want to experience it more, and I was able to do that [at] my first ATP event of the year. I was able to win Auckland, so that definitely motivated me more to keep getting better, keep improving and try to win more of those this year.