A conversation with Novak Djokovic’s U.S. Open hitting partner Jack Sock
World #3 Novak Djokovic has used American Jack Sock as a frequent hitting partner during the 2010 U.S. Open and the teenager from Lincoln, Nebraska talks about his unique experience and perspective of the charismatic and colorful former Australian Open champion who will take on Roger Federer in Saturday’s semifinal…
Tennis-prose.com: How did you get the opportunity to hit with such an accomplished player as Novak Djokovic?
Jack Sock: “It was before his first night match here (vs. Petzschner in second round). And I was still here (after losing first round in main draw vs. Marco Chiudinelli 16 46 61 16). He just needed a warmup before his night match and I was still around and I went out around the P courts and just warmed him up. I guess I did a pretty good job and he played a guy that hit a lot of slices, so he asked me to hit a lot of slices. So I hit like 20 in a row. And he was probably happy with me. So his coaches got in contact with my coach and asked me to actually come out to this private court in New Jersey (private residence court in Alpine in Bergen County) about 20 minutes away. To go out and hit there. I did that two days later. And then I warmed him up again before the next time he played (vs. Blake) around here. Then I went back to his private court again, the next day to practice again with him. We had some pretty good hits together and just spending a little time together. I was just trying to do my best out there and make as many balls as I can in the warmups that I had with him.”
Tennis-prose.com: Did he talk with you and talk about tennis?
Jack Sock: “On the changeovers we talked about our paths growing up, just the basic stuff.”
Tennis-prose.com: We know he’s a character with a great sense of humor, did you see that at all in the practices?
Jack Sock: “He’s funny in practice too. Once in a while, out of nowhere he’ll do a really loud, funny grunt that makes you laugh. He’s a really good guy, upbeat and he’s a pretty funny guy. But on the day he warms up before a match, he’s different. Very serious. It’s very strict and routine. He doesn’t really talk to anybody.”
Tennis-prose.com: Did he offer any advice to you?
Jack Sock: “He kind of just said I’ve been doing pretty well lately, he just said to keep doing what you’re doing, obviously your coach knows what he’s doing. You guys have made a good run lately and throughout my junior career – it’s been pretty good. He thinks we know what we’re doing, so keep doing what you’re doing, then you’ll get better, you’ll be at this level someday. That was inspirational.”
Tennis-prose.com: Was there anything that surprised you about Djokovic?
Jack Sock: “Not really. I heard he’s a funny guy, seeing all his imitations and stuff. I knew he’s probably a little jokester here and there. Not really. The way he plays, how clean he hits the ball is pretty amazing. I mean, obviously they’re all incredible – the top five in the world – but the level is just crazy.”
Tennis-prose.com: Do you think Djokovic can win the tournament?
Jack Sock: “Oh yeah. I think anybody left can win on any given day. Beat the other guy on any given day. Obviously, Nadal and Federer are going to be a really tough out, they’re playing pretty well, Nadal is always a fighter and doesn’t miss. But I mean, they’re all going to be a tough out. It’s gonna be a great weekend of tennis.”