PARIS — Ah, the French Open, the time of year when a certain question is asked repeatedly by American tennis fans: Why can’t the country’s players, particularly the men, find success on red clay?
Now comes along Jack Sock, a 22-year-old born in Nebraska and currently residing in Florida, who unabashedly calls the slow stuff “my favorite surface.”
“This just suits my game very well,” Sock said. “I’m able to take my time and kind of maneuver the ball around. Movement is another big part of my game. I feel like on the clay, I get to a lot of balls.”
He did just that Tuesday on bullring-shaped Court 1 during a 7-6, (7), 6-2, 6-3 victory over Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, who was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year and was seeded 10th in Paris, making him the top man to lose so far.
“Jack played his game,” he said.
Cleanly, too. Sock hit 30 winners and made only 18 unforced errors (10 fewer than Dimitrov) and saved all six break points he faced. Pounding serves at up to 136 mph (220 kph), leaping into his big forehands, and effectively pressing forward to win the point on 19 of 25 trips to the net.
Not traditional clay-court tennis, necessarily. But it worked.
The 6-foot-10 Isner, who beat Italy’s Andreas Seppi 7-5, 6-2, 6-3, is also learning to like the crushed dirt.
“A lot is said about clay and how it’s a defensive surface. It’s sort of, I would say, a misconception,” Isner said. “I think clay is a very good attacking surface. A guy like (Rafael Nadal), yeah, he plays great defense, but knocks the cover off the ball.”
Four of the seven U.S. men in this year’s field already are gone, as are 13 of the 17 women from the country. Andre Agassi was the last American man to even get to the quarterfinals at the French Open, and that was all the way back in 2003.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@USTA
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