Tennis Prose



Sock Inspired By NFL Great, Wins in Indian Wells

By Scoop Malinowski

Jack Sock hasn’t had a good year so far in 2023 but the presence of an NFL great at his match could be just the spark he’s needed.

Changing racquets, from Babolat to Yonex, dropping new coach Nick Monroe after only four matches together were moves that failed to help Sock jump start his stagnated career which has been on the outside looking in at the top 100 for the last four years. Coming into the BNP Paribas Open Sock’s record is 1-3.

Playing France’s Gregoire Barrere on stadium court with Super Bowl champ quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the crowd watching surely inspired the 30 year old Sock, ranked 154, to get his act together as he rolled to an impressive 64 62 triumph.

Sock admitted to ATP reporter Andrew Eichenholz that the presence of Mahomes did indeed pump him up. “It’s beyond special. I had a message from him right after, so that was special as well. We’ve gotten to know each other over the past few years when I was in Kansas City before I moved to North Carolina. I got to know him and we were able to play golf a few times. Just an awesome dude. For the position he’s in, the legacy he’s building and everything, he’s just the most normal, down-to-earth guy. It’s definitely special to have him out here.”

There have been other instances when a sporting great’s presence inspired a tennis player’s performance. Polish heavyweight boxer Andrew Golota came to the US Open in 2016 (because of my invitation and free tickets from billionaire oil tycoon and friend Al G. Hill) and Wozniacki found out about it and invited him to sit in her box for her matches. It had been a bad year for Wozniacki up to that point, in part because of an ankle injury that forced her to miss clay season. But at US Open Caro’s fortunes changed and she reached the semis (beating Townsend, Niculescu, Kuznetsova, Keys and Sevastova before losing to Kerber), with Golota in her box for most of her matches. I have no doubt Golota’s spirit and energy sparked Wozniacki. Golota was a 1988 Olympic bronze medalist in Korea and he fought for the World Heavyweight title four times.

Surely there are other examples of other accomplished sports champions inspiring tennis pros. Now if only Mahomes can attend all of Sock’s matches in Indian Wells, maybe he can do some serious damage – or even win the title. Sock will play 27 seed Francisco Cerundolo next round, and then looming could be Felix Auger-Aliassime. Sock is playing doubles with John Isner.

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