Jack Sock Loses to 17-Year-Old No. 340; 16-Year-Old Svajda Shines; Tracy Austin Son Debuts

It’s all in the Challengers this week in Fairfield, Ca. How does this happen…Jack Sock, former U.S. No. 1, goes to Laver Cup a few weeks ago and beats No. 10 Fabio Fognini then he returns to tournament play and loses to a 17-Year-Old ranked No. 340? Sock’s ignominy continues, but this latest loss could be the most humiliating and stinging of his whole career.

Draper is a young Brit who last week won a Futures in Great Britain beating the world-renowned Julian Ocleppo, No. 412, in the finals. Draper’s best win all year until he beat Sock was a win over the world No. 249. Will Sock have to go back and play Futures?

Zachary Svajda, ranked No. 1295, won his first round match in Fairfield beating Michael Redlicki and then lost 4 in the third against No. 2 seed, Denis Kudla. Svajda was up two sets to love against Lorenzi at the US Open until he seemed to hurt himself and ran out of gas. He might be the next de Minaur, but he makes the young Aussie look like a giant.

Finally, Brandon Holt, the progeny of Tracy Austin, won his first round match against Colin Altamarano, but then got beat soundly by Taro Daniel in the second round. Holt is 21 and ranked No. 554, but he’s doing something no other son of a famous female player has ever done (not Chris Evert, Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong or Virginia Wade), and that is play on the pro tour. Of course, he’s from Rolling Hill, Ca. which is a breeding ground for pro tennis and his mom won her first slam at age 16.

It’s all in the Challengers!

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  • Andrew Miller · October 13, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Saw Venus and Serena before they played their first pro matches. They were amazing! Serena Williams at even that age was game-wise stellar. I played in the same clinic as the #1 girls player in the country at that time (as in I was on the same court drilling, played out points etc) and Serena would have beaten her at love.

    Listen the record books show that Gauff is the youngest since Vaidisova. Don’t make too much of it! She did great this week, she made the most of the LL and played her heart out and won with a good field, these players aren’t pushovers. Bertens is good. Petkovic is good. Ostapenko has been playing well since the US Open began and finally found something resembling her form. Gauff did fantastic, she joins ten players in history to win a title around this age.

    I will say it until I am blue in the face…this is an excellent excellent result. It’s also one tournament only, with a decent draw. The competition was good and she beat very good players and earned it after losing in qualies and getting what I believe is a “lucky bounce” (if she got on on LL and lost first round we’d be saying look at this look at that Gauff isn’t ready etc etc). She won fair and square!!!

    But don’t get too carried away. Win or lose players need short memories and it’s on to Luxembourg. This is a good time to get a title win, where everyone’s guard is down a little and the expectations are low, it isn’t a masters or slam or anything like that and a player can enjoy the lull in the tennis season.

    Nice result. Next!!!

  • Andrew Miller · October 13, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    Yeah I think Gauff needs to grow into her game a bit. Noticed some things that I hope her coaching team notices also, so that as she faces better players with better strategy that she can adjust.

    No I’ll say it again, I don’t see similarities between Gauff and some all time greats whether from the U.S. or anywhere. But hey she can grow into her game and find ways to lower her time on court. Turn the nice serve into a weapon, that’s possible. Tighten up some things here and there on basics.

    It’s a nice game, not a great game yet. She has potential and I hope she keeps improving. She’s a welcome addition especially in the U.S. We’ve been fortunate to see some rising stars this year with Kenin light years ahead of everyone else, no doubt due to her underrated competitiveness – her being a step slow has made her focus on strategy and it’s paying off, her play is very strategic. If she ups her athleticism Kenin could find herself owning big titles.

    If Gauff ups her strategy and game she could also find herself in great matches next year too. So many ifs.

    That’s tennis for you. A lot of Ifs! If I do that, if player Y does this, if player X develops this shot. Lots of ifs.

  • Andrew Miller · October 13, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    Federer wasn’t ready for prime time. He was behind Hewitt, JC Ferrero, others. Players had his number. Then it didn’t matter. He owns almost all the records and all his former opponents pale in comparison with the exception of the other two guys he competes with for history, and who may eclipse him even next year.

  • Andrew Miller · October 13, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Medvedev playing scary well. He should win or final for the year end tournament. He’s forgetting that losing is part of the sport. At this stage the only thing that can derail Medvedev for the rest of the season is an injury or an argument with his wife over who gets to drive the BMW.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 13, 2019 at 3:48 pm


    Jon, where do I sign up for the Gauff winning only 0 or 1 slam bet? Seriously, the girl is winning WTA titles at 15 and you think she might not win a slam!!!??Come on, now. I think the over-and-under with Gauff major titles has to start at at least 5.

    As for manufactured stars, guys like Kobe, LeBron and Zion, you’re talking about once in a generation stars. Are they protected by the NBA? Yes. Do they not get traveling called against them or get all the close fouls? Yes. But if you’ve ever played basketball before and you walk into a gym and play against someone like thees guys, you know right away that a guy like LeBron is a freak, a force of nature. How come LeBron turns into possibly the Greatest Player of All Time? It’s not because the NBA made him that. His talent, his drive, his genius made him that.

    As the commercial says, “The Ball Don’t Lie.” I wrote a book with John Starks; I saw him play for the first time in the Garden sitting courtside in press row for the first time and I’d never even heard of the dude. But it took me one game watching that dude fly up and down the court, launching jumpers in defender’s faces, and I knew the guy was going to be if not a star, a solid player. No one gave John Starks anything but the back of their hands for most of his life, and still he became a star in New York City, the basketball Mecca.

    I have a son who no one thinks is going to be a great player, and he isn’t yet, but he’s the only high-level junior player playing both tennis and baseball seriously in America, and nobody’s given him anything. He practices 3-7 days a week tennis; 2-5 days a week baseball; sometimes playing both sports in the same day, and he’s won a national 14’s tournament already and he’s the starting pitcher today for the second straight baseball tournament his travel team has reached the finals in on consecutive weeks. And nobody’s given him anything. He’s earned everything he’s accomplished. That’s how it is in sports.

  • Hartt · October 13, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    I have not seen enough Gauff matches to have a clear idea of how talented she is, but winning a WTA title at 15 has to mean something. She must be a good competitor, which is a huge asset.

    We talked about how the young women players can’t add a lot more power, but presumably she can make several improvements to her game.

    I don’t think it is fair to compare her to Serena. Virtually all the WTA players pale in comparison. But we’ve seen Coco get trounced by very good players like Naomi. So the question is whether she will improve enough in the next few years to defeat Naomi, Bianca, Ash and Simona? Coco seems very ambitious and my guess is that she will develop a lot in the next couple years. She already knows what it is like to face top players.

  • Andrew Miller · October 13, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    Vaidisova won so many slams!

    When you win one you win one. Otherwise and until further notice you are not a slam winner. Such is tennis.

    Gauff played primarily defensive tennis. I like that she let Ostapenko self destruct, I don’t know if that was the game plan. Ostapenko went for way too much on her shots and Gauff let her do that. Nice defensive way of playing.

    I think Gauff has a nice defense to offense capability or the potential for it – when stretched or on the run to do something with the ball. Remains to be seen.

    Good serve. Nice drop shot. Mostly excellent poise. Ostapenko should have played better that first set…but such is tennis! As Ostapenko went for too much Gauff played within her abilities and there you have it. Doesn’t matter how you win, if you float back deep shots hit every shot as a drop shot or simply serve second serves all day long, that’s tennis.

    I’ll keep to what I said before. This is a sweet win for Gauff and she is precocious in winning at a young age, joining a small number of players including the great Tracy Austin and Capriati and Seles and the not so great Vaidisova and Anke Huber. Let’s not read too much into that one.

    The nice things, the poise under pressure, enthusiasm for the sport, and taking out plenty of very good players including a streaky former French Open champ that has rediscovered her game. The bottom line is it doesn’t matter if you’re a lucky loser or not, when you win the tournament you win the tournament.

    Let’s see how this goes for her and how her game evolves. I’ve seen the defensive oriented tennis game before and I’m wary of it because it’s exploitable, but the kid has a nice serve and that should in theory open up the court for her and allow her to put more pressure on her opponents. The fact she puts one more ball back in play is always formidable, because that’s the essence of grinder tennis.

    A little more offense would help out and shorten up the points and help her get to the winner’s circle faster.

    Whether team Gauff makes those changes is up to them. I don’t think so because this is working so far. But we’ll see.

  • Hartt · October 13, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    Playing defensive tennis against Ostapenko and letting her self-destruct is an obvious tactic. I remember the Charleston final in 2017 where Daria Kasatkina used that tactic very effectively to beat Ostapenko in SS.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 13, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    Defense wins championships, offense makes highlight shows. Djokovic is a defensive player but can produce offense when needed. Federer plays super defense too.

  • Jeff · October 13, 2019 at 9:59 pm

    I am going to split the difference and say Gauff wins maybe 2 majors or 3. She may be peaking too soon and other girls will come up and better her as late bloomers. This early success could be a problem down the road. Plus you have the Osakas and Andreescus hanging around.

    Something is off here but I can’t put my finger on it.

  • Andrew Miller · October 13, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    I can’t predict anything and won’t try. I’d like to see Gauff sharpen her serve so that she’s holding more often and can then grind out her service return games. That alone should move her through matches and tournaments in fewer sets, lower the risk of injury, help her make better choices on the court. That’s easy enough. Tennis is simple like that – you hold serve and probabilities begin to favor you winning more often. If you hold and put pressure on your opponent’s serve you become even more likely to win more often.

    DKat did that against Ostapenko!!! Nice. I didn’t know DKat had it in her to strategize like that. Like the Belarusian Sabalenka, D.Kat reminds me of Mauresmo, she moves well and is capable of smooth and sound tennis.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 14, 2019 at 8:34 am

    Absolutely wrong, Scoop. Defense, at least in the men’s game and probably still at the top of the women’s game, doesn’t win championships. A young pro who reached No. 733 in the world told my son the other day when he was hitting with him (and Callum is still only 13) that the way to up his game was to turn defense into offense, meaning as you get into older age levels and then turn pro, you have to be able to attack.

    Certainly Federer doesn’t play a defensive game. Neither does Nadal. Even a Djokovic will come to net more often than other players.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 14, 2019 at 8:59 am

    But a player has to have a strong defense to thwart the offense. McEnroe, Nadal, Hewitt, Djokovic, even Federer and Sampras (which they only had to show infrequently) all had/have super strong defenses. Must be able to handle strong offense while of course having offense also. Yes of course having a big weapon and offensive game is important but having a strong defense is just as important. It was described by warring nations, Russia can have the best war weapons on the planet but if it can’t defend it’s territory it will lose the war. Defense is just as vital as offense. Need both.

  • Andrew Miller · October 14, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Isn’t “defense to offense”, as a term, describe when a player makes an offense shot from a defensive position? Example, an opponent hits a shot you have to retrieve and as you are pulled out of position, do something better than a light lob? It’s something Federer would do, when opponents hit overhead smashes and he guessed correctly and was able to hit the shot back aggressively.

    In some ways something that’s become more possible with the changes in the game such as strings etc.

    In other ways something that players now do more commonly, changing grips so they’re not just getting a ball back from a defensive position but doing something more aggressive with the ball.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 14, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Defense to offense is being yo yoed around the court on the full stretch and managing a point ending knockout shot from a desperate position, like a screeching forehand winner up the line or cross court, or backhand same thing. Or a shot from that defensive position that stuns the attacker and forces, like at their feet, that forces up a cough up shot that the scrambling defender can that take control or end the point on. With all the offense in tennis, a good defense is mandatory. Federer plays some incredible defense when he has to. So did Sampras, remember that one crazy US Open point with Agassi?

  • Andrew Miller · October 14, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Yes Sampras perfect defense to offense. Probably the most draining shots to face. You win the point and then lose it!!!

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