Roland Garros: Haas d. Sock

by: Steve Tignor | May 31, 2013

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When Tommy Haas made his debut at the French Open, in 1998, Jack Sock was all of five years old. So it was an extreme case of youth vs. experience when the two players, one of them now 35 years old, the other 20, met today in the second round on Court 2 at Roland Garros. As expected, youth threatened, but experience eventually found a way through.

Sock, whose knowledge of Parisian cuisine extends to the city’s one Chipotle restaurant, started well. He dictated the early rallies from near the baseline and sent Haas scrambling in the vicinity of the line judges at the back of the court. Sock didn’t face a break point in the first set, and he earned four of his own. But he couldn’t convert any of them—he missed a drop shot on one and hit a backhand long on another. On the fourth and final one, at 5-5, he let Haas come forward, and come over his one-handed backhand, to take control of the rally.

That passivity would come back to haunt Sock, as Haas saved some of his best tennis for the ensuing tiebreaker. At 3-3, Sock was in command of a rally, only to watch as Haas made a long side-to-side and flicked a cross-court forehand pass by him for a winner. The crowd roared. Sock sagged. Haas won the last three points for the set. He had given his young opponent two lessons in the process: (1) Take advantage of your opportunities whenever you can; and (2) Old guys can still have some wheels.

Unfortunately for Sock, he had no opportunities to take advantage of in the second set. His forehand, his biggest but busiest stroke, began to betray him. Break point down at 1-1, he flipped one wide, and when another caught the tape in the next game, he yelled, to himself, “What am I doing, man?” Sock couldn’t answer his own question, as he was quickly down another break and and down two sets. Haas, the steadier player and the better clay mover, had taken command of the rallies and the match.

But Sock, who had been in town long enough to win three qualifying matches, wasn’t quite ready to let his semi-excellent Parisian adventure end. He saved three break points in the opening game of the third set and broke Haas to go up 3-0. But the errors crept back in at 4-2; when Sock missed another forehand—he would commit 34 errors on the day—he spiked his racquet in anger. At 30-40, Haas hit a good running backhand up the line to break back and make it 4-4. Two games later, Sock double faulted to hand over the day’s final break. Haas closed a few minutes later with an ace and a one-two fist-pump combination, for a 7-6 (3), 6-2, 7-5 win. 

The 35-year-old played a clean three sets—34 winners, 30 errors—and, wily veteran that he is, used the clay to help get him around a little faster. He’s on to the third round, where he’ll try to end another American’s spring trip to Europe. He plays the winner of John Isner and Ryan Harrison.

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