PARIS – Not so long ago, Jack Sock was ranked No.8. Then he had a series of results that he describes as “horrible”, which makes you doubt that he would ever win a match again. of the Grand Slam.
Today, the 28-year-old American feels his tennis game is back and he has his first French Open win since 2016 to prove it. Next up for qualifying: a tough test against Dominic Thiem, the man who was the finalist at Roland Garros each of the past two years and who has just won the US Open.
“I mean, when you go from the top 10 not winning a game for the first time in your life, really, on a tennis court, without having a lot of faith in yourself, I think that’s a huge eye-opener.” , the 310th-ranked Sock, said Monday after his surprisingly straightforward 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 36th-ranked Reilly Opelka of the United States.
“I would say I’ve always been a confident player there. I feel like if I play good tennis I can compete with anyone in the world, ”Sock said after beating the Opelka five times. “Going out and playing games, not believing in your shots – thinking you can lose to anyone anytime you want – is a whole different feeling. “
After reaching his career high in the standings in November 2017, as a semi-finalist in the season-ending ATP Tour final, Sock was 9-22 in 2018, then 1. -4 in a 2019 hampered by injuries.
Last November he was completely off the leaderboard and still wasn’t ranked as recently as February.
Sock thanks coach Alex Bogomolov Jr. for helping to recalibrate and regain some self-confidence.
“He keeps hammering your head, ‘You’ve been at this level. You are that player. You are that player. It doesn’t just go away. Bringing in the representatives, being in good shape in the head, mentally, everything together gave me back confidence on the pitch, ”he explained. “I feel as good as maybe I ever had there.”
No.3 seed Thiem advanced on Monday with a straight set victory over 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic.
“I heard he was pretty good on clay. I heard he played well a few weeks ago in New York, ”Sock joked of the 27-year-old Austria.
“Probably playing the best tennis of his life or part of (it), winning his first Grand Slam a few weeks ago. I also think I am a good player. I’m going to stick to my patterns, stick to my game, hopefully try to dictate some points, control part of the game on my racquet, ”said Sock. “If he does that on his side of the pitch, moving around, controlling points, it won’t be a very good day against him.
A year ago, at 19 and 38th, Marketa Vondrousova arrived at Roland Garros with a career record of 1-2 instead. She made it to her first Grand Slam final – she had never made it past the fourth round at any major tournament before – and said, before losing the title match to Ash Barty: “The best week of my life so far. “
Not quite the same kind of stay in Paris this time. Vondrousva, 15th seed, was quickly finished, ousted Monday by the Polish teenager Iga Swiatek 6-1, 6-2 in 63 minutes.
Sums up Vondrousova: “She was just better.”
The last time a Roland Garros finalist lost in the first round the following year was when Dinara Safina came out straight away in 2010.
Swiatek, who had a 23-7 lead in total winners, said she was happy to have achieved the goals she set for herself: to stay focused and consistent.
“It’s never easy,” she says. “It’s never easy, especially against a player like Marketa, who likes to play on clay.”
Zhang Shuai not only ousted 2017 semi-finalist Madison Keys from the first round of Roland Garros, beating the 12th-seeded American 6-3, 7-6 (2), but she also stood out a lot. other players by having only positive things. to say about the autumn conditions that make Roland Garros unique this year.
The 39th-ranked player from Tianjin, China, sprang to discover Paris outside the usual May-June slot for the French Open, even though she was confined like all players to one of the two hotels of the tournament.
“Being in Paris in the fall is a fantastically beautiful season and so rare to come here right now,” she says.
The 31-year-old failed to win a match at Roland Garros in her first five attempts. But she has always been advanced to the first round of her five French Open since, with her best performance to date with a third round appearance in 2017.
AP Tennis editor Fendrich reported from Washington; AP Sports Writer Leicester reported from Paris.