DALLAS, TX - After dabbling with pickleball in 2023, Jack Sock is now a regular PPA Tour player in 2024. His first event as a regular tour member was the PPA Masters, which just ended in Palm Springs. Sock brought a new level of excitement to the PPA Tour. Let’s look back at how he did and what affect he will have on the pro game.
We expected Sock to have the most success at singles, and have the toughest time at men’s doubles. All predictions proved true. In singles, Sock took a bronze medal after defeating top 10 players Connor Garnett and Jay Devilliers. He lost to Federico Staksrud, the #2 singles player in the world.
In mixed doubles, Sock paired with Catherine Parenteau, getting to the quarterfinals. They lost a competitive match to Anna Bright and James Ignatowich, the #2 seed.
In men’s doubles, Sock paired with Collin Shick. They had no significant wins, losing in the round of 16 to Riley Newman and Thomas Wilson 11-8, 11-1.
Overall, Sock displayed a high level of athleticism and power. He ran around just about every backhand possible, but his athleticism is such that he is rarely found to be out of position. His forehand power was awesome; he is already the most powerful player in the game. His power helped him at mixed, where he mainly focused on blasting away at the female opponent. Where Sock ran into trouble was when he came up against elite level talent on the men’s side. Newman, Wilson, Ignatowich, and Staksrud all proved they could handle Sock’s power, and force him to play a softer game. Sock was competent in the soft game, but is not yet elite.
Sock used a forehand drive exclusively on third shots. His error rate was high, but his success rate was also high, either hitting winners or forcing a weak block that could be punished. He also tried to drive in transition, a shot that was less successful. He did tag his opponent frequently, but also again had a very high error rate.
Sock will learn to play the soft game better. But he is going to rely on his unmatched power. I expect him to experiment with a two-hand backhand drive, perhaps cutting down a bit on his tendency to run around every backhand. He definitely needs to work on his dinking and his transition play.
I do believe that Sock is part of an overall change we are seeing in how pickleball is played at the highest level. Pro pickleball today looks different than it did five years ago, and pickleball from five years ago looked different from pickleball ten years ago. Today, we are seeing much more topspin and power. Paddle technology is part of it, and players are taking advantage of what the new paddles can do. Sock’s relentless power game is going to be imitated, especially by tennis players converting to pickleball. For now, the top male players are able to comfortably handle even Sock’s power, forcing him to play soft game points. It will be interesting to see how Sock’s game evolves. Will he increase the power? Or will he modify his game to incorporate more soft shots?
For now, Sock is a top 5 singles player already, a remarkable feat. Playing with Parenteau, he should be a top 10 mixed player. However, he has some way to go in men’s doubles. An interesting question is where he may get drafted in MLP. His fame will likely mean he gets drafted higher than expected. Do not be surprised if Sock goes in round 2 of a Premier draft or even at the end of round 1.
In any event, one thing is absolutely certain; Sock is must-see PPA Tour TV. He will be a top attraction all year.