American Jack Sock reflects on his upset over Kei Nishikori in Shanghai
SHANGHAI, China -- Jack Sock earned the first top ten win of his career on Wednesday with a 7-6 (5), 6-4 win over U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori in the second round of the Shanghai Rolex Masters. Sock's victory snapped No. 6 Nishikori's nine-match win streak over the last two weeks, where he won back-to-back titles at the Malaysian Open and Japan Open. Sock, ranked No. 60, came into the match 0-5 against top ten opposition.
"Honestly, you never know when [that big win is] gonna come," Sock said. "You can be feeling good and playing well and the other guy could be playing better that day and that's that. I made a lot of improvements, I have a lot of confidence right now in my game and in my body right now, and I feel like I can compete with a lot of the guys. Today it just went my way."
The match featured just one break point, which also happened to be match point for Sock which he converted for the win. The 22-year old American never faced a break point, serving 72 percent of his first serves in and winning 82 percent of them. Nishikori took a medical timeout during the second set for a hip and back injury, which he says he began to feel last week in Tokyo.
SI.com sat down with Sock for a chat after his big win:
SI.com: What's the key to your game: your serve or forehand?
Sock: I think both. It's always been serve and forehand usually. I try and one-two punch it as much as I can. I'm feeling like if I'm serving well like today -- I think I was serving at 80 percent in the first set -- I feel like if I'm doing that I can compete with a lot of guys. Obviously in today's game guys are returning really well and getting a lot of balls back. But if I'm serving well to set up my forehand then I'm feeling pretty good.
SI.com: How do you think you've improved from the beginning of this season until now?
Sock: I think experience is a lot of it. Last year was my first full year on tour because in 2012 I was injured for a while. So last year I was new on the scene and played a full schedule and traveled outside the states a lot which was new to me. This year I came into it with a little more experience. A few things have built my confidence up. I moved to Tampa and started training with John [Isner]. The climate there, the structure there has really helped me in a lot of ways. Putting everything into tennis, I think the pieces are starting to fall together for me. Practicing with John every day, he's been top 15 for a while now and has had a great career, can only help me. Hopefully I can help him out too. We have great practices. And our trainer is there and he's really helped change my body in a lot and I feel like I've got in a lot better shape which has helped me compete with these guys.
SI.com: Watching your first round win over Bernard Tomic and now Nishikori, it seems like you're playing with more discipline on your forehand side. Maybe not going for as much all the time. Is that a tactical change you're trying out?
Sock: It's more a feeler. Obviously I have a lot of confidence in that wing and a lot of faith in my right arm when it comes to that. I usually feel pretty good when I'm hitting forehands. It just depends on how I'm feeling that day. If I feel like I can really juice it and I can hit it big and I feel like I can spot it well then I'll go after it. But rarely are there that many days that I come out and it doesn't feel that great or I have to lay off of it. It's usually more the serve, whether that's hot or not. But forehand, usually, is green light.
SI.com: Nishikori said he was impressed by your defense today. We usually focus on your offensive weapons. Do you feel like that's an underrated part of your game?
Sock: I don't know if it's underrated or not but I have confidence in my speed and my quickness around the court. I do feel like I can touch a lot of balls and make a guy hit one more ball. I was a smaller kid when I was growing up so I had to learn some defensive skills. I had to grind a little bit and win points by scrapping it out. Obviously as I grew a little more and developed more of an offensive game I didn't use it as much. But I feel I always have it. If I need to I can play defense, I guess.
SI.com: Let's switch subjects away from the match. Do you have a post-loss ritual?
Sock: I usually don't talk very much. I usually just go off by myself and listen to music and just get away from everyone and do my own thing and get in my own bubble.
SI.com: Are you superstitious?
Sock: I am. Eat at the same restaurants, especially if I'm winning. There's some on court stuff I do that's not worth mentioning. Warm-up times, I don't know, it's too complicated. I'm definitely a creature of habit.
SI.com: Does that explain your Chipotle obsession?
Sock: Yeah. I'm a massive fan of Chipotle obviously and it started at the Junior U.S. Open when I ate there 18 nights in a row like a weirdo.
SI.com: Do you have the Chipotle card that gives you unlimited Chipotle anytime you want?
Sock: I do! The legendary card that has my name on it.
SI.com: How often do you use it?
Sock: A lot. Four times a week maybe. Take a friend or two and go get Chipotle.
SI.com: They're going to regret giving it to you.
Sock: They might be. Hopefully they don't call me and tell me I'm over my budget.
SI.com: What do you do to keep your mind off tennis?
Sock: I'm a big sports fan. I follow the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals, obviously. Massive fan. Die-hard Nebraska Cornhusker fan. I follow it to a tee. I watch some TV shows on my computer, obviously on the road there's a lot of down time.
SI.com: How have you been keeping up with the Royals while you've been in Asia?
Sock: I've been streaming the games on my computer. I've been following it very closely.
SI.com: When did you start to think you could make it as a professional tennis player?
Sock: I think it was after junior U.S. Open when I won that tournament. I was planning to go to college for the longest time -- Big Cornhuskers fan so I was planning to go to Nebraska where my brother is and play on the team with him. I had a bunch of friends on the team. I was looking forward to that. Then the U.S. Open title came out of nowhere. I had a wildcard and I played some of the top juniors and was able to get through that. From there it was like, well maybe I go the tennis route now instead of going to college. I'm also someone who likes to finish what I start and I knew if I went to college I would have been there for four years and by that time who knows what the opportunities would be then and where my tennis would be.
SI.com: Was there ever a moment when you thought you made the wrong decision?
Sock: The first couple of months when you're playing Futures and Challengers and you're losing and your friends are calling you telling you, "Oh man, you're missing out we're having such a good time" and you're like, "I know." But no, obviously I couldn't ask for a better life. I'm very fortunate and very blessed to have this opportunity and can hopefully can ride it for as long as I can.
SI.com: If you could take a selfie with anyone in the world who would it be?
Sock: I love Jimmy Fallon, actually. I watch all his shows I think he's hilarious. Maybe Derek Jeter. He's such a legend.
SI.com: Three items to take with you to a desert island.
Sock: Is the item a person as well?
SI.com: Can be...
Sock: Kendall Jenner, Chipotle and if there's wi-fi, a computer so I can follow along with what's going on in the world.