American Jack Sock made a successful French Open debut Tuesday while wearing initials on his shoes in honor of two friends who he said died recently in separate accidents.
Sock, a 20-year-old from Lincoln, Neb., beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 6-2, 7-5 and acknowledged mixed emotions afterward. He said one of the accident victims was a former high school teammate, and the other was a friend he played with in juniors tournaments.
”They were both 21, I think — sophomores, juniors in college,” Sock said. ”Kind of hits you out of nowhere. I was definitely thinking of them out there.”
Ranked 118th, Sock reached the main draw by winning three matches in qualifying. He has an unimpressive record on the green clay common in the United States but said Europe’s red clay is different, and he likes it better.
”I’ll always look forward to coming back here,” he said. ”Growing up I didn’t play a whole lot on it, but I loved playing on it when I did. Coming over here and playing on the real stuff has been great.”
Sock hasn’t taken to the local cuisine, however. Instead he frequents a Mexican restaurant that is part of a US chain.
”I’ll be there as much as I can,” he said. ”It’s a decent cab ride from the hotel. I think I have been there six or seven out of 10 nights probably.”
Like fellow Nebraska native Andy Roddick at the same age, Sock wears his cap backward. He lacks Roddick’s power but is a dogged baseliner with a tricky kick serve.
Sock played his opening match on remote court 3 and will likely be assigned to a bigger venue in the second round when he faces his frequent practice partner, No. 12-seeded Tommy Haas.
”I like playing in front of people,” Sock said. ”I like the big stages. I mean, the more the merrier. It’s fun.”
Sock made his first Grand Slam splash last August at the US Open, where he won two matches. He’s part of a new generation of US players who have enjoyed some success in the first round at Roland Garros, even though clay is traditionally the worst surface for Americans.
Despite losses Tuesday by Lauren Davis and CoCo Vandeweghe, US women are 9-5 in the opening round, with Jamie Hampton’s match against No. 25 Lucie Safarova postponed until Wednesday because of rain.