Sock Has A Bright Future

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It was the past against the future. American tennis’s past darling in Andy Roddick against future star Jack Sock.

And when it was the master took on the apprentice today, Roddick showed experience wins out in a straight set win over his fellow Nebraskan, 6-3 6-3 6-4.

“I didn’t think I’d ever play another guy from Nebraska in my career,” Roddick said.  “You know, it was just cool.  I could draw so many parallels to what he was going through.  You know, but also I could draw on my experience a little bit.”

Sock’s inexperience showed when he missed a few break points in the first, which could have changed the complexion of the match. It is something that will come in time for the 18 year-old, because this was such a learning experience for him.

“After watching him I knew that he kind of plays a lot from the baseline, maybe a little bit behind the baseline, makes a lot of balls, is steady,” he said.  “I felt like I could go out there and try to dictate points and try to hit a lot of forehands, try to move the ball around as much as possible, and then attack when I could.

“I felt like I did a decent job of that.  I mean, like I said, it comes down to him getting back in the court and retrieve and be able to hit passing shots how he wants, like standing still or not on the run. I felt overall like I played a pretty good match.”

But it still wasn’t enough for Roddick who came in knowing his opponent would be a little nervous playing in the big bowl for the first time in his career. According to the 21st seeded player he has participated in 27 night matches at Ashes, so tonight was just old hat.

Yet, Roddick knows this won’t be the last he sees of Sock. In fact the 2003 champ feels Sock will be one of the “legit prospects” along with fellow American Ryan Harrison. And after the match Roddick invited him to his compound in Texas to practice with him, the same way Andre Agassi did back in the early 2000s with the current American star.

“I certainly feel the need to pay it forward,” Roddick said. “This game has been great to me.  It’s pretty much an impossibility for me to do it. But as far as leaving it better than when you came, when I came it was the best generation that has ever existed in a country.

“But I enjoy having the young guys at home.  I think I can help them.  It’s inspiring for me.  You can kind of feed off of their hunger a little bit.”

And that’s how American tennis will come back. It will be a cumulative effort. Although Roddick shown Same Querrey and Harrison the same hospitality, Sock, coming from the same background in Nebraska, may have some real success working with Roddick.

Plus he has the skills. With a 135 m.p.h serve, the talent is there, so all he now has to do is hone it in and learn about the intricacies of the game that only come with experience. When that happens, Sock will move up the ranks and become a star in this game, muck like Roddick did about 10 years ago.

So this is only the beginning and soon you may see the student teaching his teacher a thing or two.

Djokovic On Track To Be Next Great

To some he’s the Djoker, the tennis player with a sense of humor. It doesn’t matter to him if his humor offends, as it’s his way of blowing off steam.

But for many years, Novak Djokovic was the best of the rest. The top player in the world not named Federer or Nadal. Now, though that has changed.

After his complete demolition of No. 5 seed Andy Murray, 6-4 6-2 6-3, to win the 2011 Australian Open, Djokovic vaulted himself up into the land of Federer and Nadal with his second OZ Open win and that makes it twice in four years.

“This was a great match,” Djokovic said. “From the start to the last point, I did what I intended of doing tactically, what I talked with my coach, what I prepared for. Physically I was very fit. I had two days between the semifinals and finals match, which was important at this stage of the tournament.

“Because I was aware of the fact that I am going to yeah, bring it to me. That will have long rallies and I will have a player who doesn’t miss a lot, a very talented player who is one of the best returners in the game.

“And, yeah, you know, I had to step in. That was the key. When I had the chance to step in and try to move him around the court, that’s what I did. Probably the turning point was the last game of the first set where we had some incredible exchange from the baseline, long rallies, and some passing shots that turned the match around.”

For all his talent, the knock on Djokovic was that he suffered from some mental mistakes, which would keep him for vaulting over players like Federer and Nadal. But something seemed to click late last year, which made him mentally tougher and kept his emotions in check.

“Something switched in my head, because I am very emotional on and off the court,” he said. “I show my emotions. This is the way I am. Everybody’s different.

“The things off court were not working for me, you know. It reflected on my game, on my professional tennis career. But then, you know, I settled some things in my head. It was all on me. You know, I had to try to find the best possible solution and try to get back on the right track.

“It’s been a big mental struggle, because I was trying to separate my, of course, professional life from my more private life.

“But, you know, if somebody’s emotional we’re all humans. It’s not possible. If something isn’t working off court, then it’s going to reflect on the court. I managed to solve that problems.

“This is all part of life. Of course, everybody’s facing difficult situations in their lives. To overcome the crisis and to stand up and try to still dedicate yourself to the sport was a big success for me as a person.”

With Roger Federer now on the downside of his career and Rafael Nadal taking up the mantle of the world’s best player, Djokovic is gaining ground in becoming the yin to Nadal’s yang. All great champions have one. Nadal was Federer’s Andre Agassi was Pete Sampras, and so forth. And after straight sets wins over Federer and Murray in the Semifinals and Finals, Djokovic is approaching that level.

Yet, according to the 23 year-old, there is still a gap.

“Still Rafa and Roger are the two best players in the world,” Djokovic said. “No question about that. You can’t compare my success and Murray’s success to their success. They’re the two most dominant players in the game for a while. All the credit to them.

“It’s nice to see that there are some new players in the later stages of Grand Slams fighting for a title. That’s all I can say.”

And it’s nice to see the Serbian win this one. Djokovic will be trying to improve his standing on other surfaces as he never got past the Semifinals at Roland Garros or Wimbledon. Yet, the he seems to be ready for the challenge.

“I don’t want to stop here,” he said. Definitely I want to keep my body healthy, fit, and ready for some more challenges to come. I feel that I have a good game for all the surfaces. I have proven that in the past.”