When Jack Sock was playing tennis in Overland Park as a teenager, he dreamed of playing one day in major championships.
Sock has achieved that goal, and he is set to play in the French Open, the second Grand Slam event of the pro tennis season. The tournament begins Saturday at Roland Garros in Paris.
“When I was young, my biggest goal was to play in the U.S. Open,” Sock said, “but I certainly wanted to play in the French Open and the other majors.”
Sock, 21, was born in Lincoln, Neb., but moved to Johnson County and played in high school at Blue Valley North, where he went 80-0 during his career and won four Kansas 6A state titles.
Even before he graduated from high school, Sock first played in a pro tennis major in 2010 when he received a wild-card entry into the main draw of the U.S. Open after winning the United States Tennis Association Boys 18s national title. Sock lost that U.S. Open match to Marco Chiudinelli 6-1, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 but did win the junior title that year in New York.
Sock has played in the U.S. Open each year since, reaching the second round in 2011 and the third round each of the last two years. He also played in the French Open last year after getting through qualifying. He made it to the second round, where he lost to Tommy Haas, and he made the second round of this year’s Australian Open before losing to Gael Monfils.
Sock didn’t have to worry about qualifying for this year’s French Open. He earned a spot in the main draw, and he’ll play Nicolas Almagro of Spain in the first round.
“I feel better physically and tennis-wise than I have in a long time,” Sock said. “Because of that, my game has improved a lot.”
Sock arrived in Europe early to prepare for the French Open. He played in a tournament this week in Nice, France, winning three qualifying matches and one in the first round before falling to fellow American John Isner.
“It was ideal preparation,” Sock said after the loss to Isner. “Now I will get in some practice at Roland Garros.”
Sock said he is also taking time to enjoy the travel.
“It’s pretty cool to walk around and see the sights,” he said. “The cities are unbelievable.”
Sock said he believes his style of play is made for the red clay of Roland Garros.
“It suits my game well,” he said. “I can use my strengths, especially my speed. I move well on it, so I can use my speed to track down balls.”
Sock is viewed by many observers as one of the best hopes to become a U.S. tennis star in the near future. He is currently No. 79 in the world ranking.
“We hear that all the time,” Sock said. “It goes in one ear and out the other. We’re just trying to work hard and get American tennis back.”
Five players to watch
1 Rafael Nadal. Nadal has struggled at times this year, but he is still favored by most to win the clay-court tournament yet again. He has a 59-1 career record at Roland Garros and has won the French title a record eight times.
2 Novak Djokovic. Djokovic recently beat Nadal in the Italian Open final, giving him four straight wins over Nadal, the top-ranked player in the world. The French Open is the only Grand Slam that Djokovic has yet to win; his best result was runner-up in 2012.
3 Stanislas Wawrinka. Wawrinka won his first major championship at this year’s Australian Open. He made it to the quarterfinals in Paris last year, his best finish in nine tries.
4 Serena Williams. Earlier this month, Williams won the Italian Open for the third time in her career. Williams’ other Rome titles came in 2002 and last year, and she went on to win the French Open on both occasions.
5 Maria Sharapova. Sharapova already has won two tournaments on clay this year. She won the French championship in 2012, giving her one win in each of the four Grand Slam tourneys (Australian, French, Wimbledon, U.S. Open).
| Tom Smith, email@example.com
WHEN/WHERE: Saturday through June 8 at Roland Garros in Paris
PRIZE MONEY: About $34 million, with about $2.25 million going to men’s and women’s champions.