Jack Sock at a tournament during the 2024 PPA Tour season.
Jack Sock has made his presence felt on the PPA Tour. PPA Tour

Mid-term review of Jack Sock

Jack Sock’s debut for full-time play in 2024 on the PPA Tour was big news. Six months in, it is still big news. He ranked as high as 8th in the world tennis rankings, made over $11 million in prize money, and came over to pickleball at the relatively young age of 31. This is not some washed up tennis player; Jack Sock is still in his athletic prime, so for him to switch to pickleball was and is a huge story.
For myself, I admit to being a huge fan of Jack Sock. For me, every match he plays is must see pickleball. When I attend a PPA event, I want to watch every match he plays. To sit 10 feet from a pickleball court and watch Jack Sock play is a rare treat. His power and athleticism are amazing, and his clear joy of playing is fun to see. On TV, his talents don’t translate quite as dramatically, but he is must see TV.

But, now that we have played half of 2024, it’s time to take a fair and balanced look at how he is doing. Unlike Sam Querrey, Sock made no prediction that he would be #1 in pickleball or otherwise dominate. So, to some extent, he is probably a victim of too-high expectations put on him by others. Nevertheless, like any other pro, Sock gets ranked and evaluated.
First, let’s look at how much he has played. So far in 2024, there have been 12 PPA events. Sock has played in eight of them. In each tournament, he has played singles, mixed, and men’s doubles. Thus, we have a fair sample size to go by.
The results are as follows in singles(listing when he was knocked out): semis, semis, quarters, semis, R32, silver, R16, R16. To summarize, he earned one medal and had an average finish of 8th.
In mixed doubles: quarters, quarters, quarters, R32, quarters, R16, quarters, R16. This is an average finish of 11th among all men.
In men’s doubles: R16, R16, R16, R32, R32, R16, R32, R32. This is an average finish of 18th as a team, so 36th among all men.
In looking at all the results, we need to add some context. Singles is obviously the one event where it is all on him. In singles, his play is in the top 10, although only one medal. So his record is similar to players like Quang Duong, or Jaume Martinez Vich. He is fairly consistent, winning at least one match every event. His power in singles is too much for players outside the top 30 or so, but as he advances, the better players can handle the power and attack Sock’s weaknesses with more effect. So he is a good singles player but is not yet a strong threat to win a tournament.
In mixed doubles, he has played almost every event with Catherine Parenteau, regarded as the second best female player. Despite the advantage of playing with Parenteau, Sock’s mixed record is, well, mixed at best. He has reached the quarters five of eight events, but has gone no further. Considering Parenteau’s ranking, it is fair to conclude that it is Sock’s play that is primarily responsible for the lack of better results in mixed.
In men’s doubles, Sock has played mostly with Collin Shick. He has played one event with Julian Arnold and played the most recent tournament with Thomas Wilson. Shick, while a fine player, is not a top player, only ranking 35th in men’s doubles. Arnold and Wilson are much higher ranked players, but Sock’s results with them were no better (R16 and R32). It is good to see Sock play with better partners, and it will be interesting to see his results in men’s doubles going forward.
A key question concerns Sock’s overall game; what is holding him back? I took a very close look at his round of 32 match at the recent Sacramento Open. Sock and Thomas Wilson lost to Naveen Beasley and Kevin Dayan 11-3, 0-11, 11-9. Beasley and Dayan were a #30 seed; they are fine players, but not top 50 players. The stats from the match matched what the eye test showed. The simple fact is that Sock makes too many errors at this point to be a top player. In this match, Sock had a total of 29 errors; in comparison, the other three players put together only had 26 (Wilson as you would expect had the fewest with seven). On speedups, Sock was successful 10/21, or .476. Anything under 50% is poor (in contrast, Wilson was 5/5, and the opponents were 6/12).
Looking at the specifics on his game, Sock has some amazing qualities. His power is top notch. His size, reach and athleticism are all top of the game. But observing his game, he has clear deficiencies as well. Sock’s liabilities are all in the area of pickleball-specific shots, the shots that make the game different from tennis. He is below average (for a PPA pro) in dinking, blocking, countering, drops, and resets. In watching the match against Beasley/Dayan, the opponents had a strategy (not followed up on enough) of dinking to Sock to make him play a soft game. Sock missed a lot of simple dinks, left some up high, and became impatient leading to injudicious speedups. Sock is famous for running around almost every backhand, but that trait holds him back in the soft game. The good players will play a simple game of dinking to him. He should focus on improving his backhand dink; running around it to the extent he does just puts him in a bad position too often. It also deprives him of the chance to use his reach to employ a backhand flick.
In summary, Jack Sock is a work in progress. His power has allowed him to make solid progress in singles, but to some extent, his reliance on power is holding him back in doubles, especially men’s doubles. The top 30-40 men can handle power, and will make people play a soft game. Sock needs to shift his game to more of a mixed game of power AND finesse. Unless or until he does, his results in doubles will not be what he wants and he will not be a top 25 player.
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