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Jack Sock readies for pro pickleball debut in Charlotte
The four-time Grand Slam doubles champion will play in singles, doubles and mixed doubles this week at the PPA North Carolina Open.
Published May 01, 2023
WATCH: Sam Querrey, after retiring from tennis, has taken up a pro pickleball career.
Jack is back. After impressing in the Pro Pickleball Association Bubly Team Championships back in December, Jack Sock is set to make his pro pickleball debut next week in his current residence of Charlotte at the PPA North Carolina Open.
Having won four major titles and two Olympic medals in doubles, and having achieved a career-high ATP doubles ranking of No. 2, Sock is poised to demonstrate how his tennis skills will translate to pickleball.
“In the most modest way, in the most humble way, the things that I’m good at in tennis, kind of the handsy chess match, that shows a little more in doubles,” Sock told the PPA Tour in a recent interview. “Singles is tougher to display the more handsy, finesse, feel-of-stuff, as things are happening fast. Pickleball, you have to slow down for a pretty good amount. You pick and choose your times to be aggressive. You have to be more patient for sure over the course of the match.
"Tennis is more full steam ahead a lot of the time, and the obvious is the smaller court. Less court to cover! I think the cat and mouse, the handsy stuff I love doing ... it is very much enjoyable.”
While the chances are very low, Sock does have an opportunity to pull off a 'triple crown,' which is winning the titles in men’s singles and doubles, as well as in mixed doubles. His chances are boosted in the doubles events with the caliber of players he will be sharing the court with. Sixteen-year-old Anna Leigh Waters, the consensus top female player, will join Sock in mixed doubles while the electric Tyson McGuffin, a Top 10 player in both singles and doubles, will pair up with Sock for men’s doubles.
The worlds of tennis and pickleball are more intertwined than one may think, as numerous tennis agencies have jumped at the chance to also represent pickleball players. Waters for example is represented by Octagon Vice President Kelly Wolf, who has represented and worked with tennis stars such as Michael Chang, Martina Hingis and Frances Tiafoe. McGuffin meanwhile is represented by Topnotch Management, a boutique talent agency that also represents tennis players such as Cameron Norrie, Caroline Garcia and John Isner.
For now, this will just be a one-off tournament for Sock as he still competes on the ATP Tour; however, he has said on McGuffin’s podcast that he would like to give pro pickleball a shot following his tennis career. If he does, some pro pickleball players believe he would need to be all-in to fully make the transition.
“Tennis players won’t be able to come in and dominate pickleball doubles within a year, period. Doesn’t matter who they are, (Alcaraz, Djokovic, etc.),” Christian Alshon said. “Would tennis pros surpass current pickleball pros, 100%, but it would take at least a year of serious training.”
Although there are some pickleball players with past tennis experience, Alshon is among the select few aware of the serious training needed to make the transition right away: He is a former top junior tennis player who then led the University of Chicago to the NCAA Division III National Championship just last May. The 22-year-old is now a full-time pickleball pro and ranked No. 11 in singles on the PPA Tour after picking up the sport just 11 months ago.
“Elite tennis players have spent years, more likely decades, wiring their brains to hit tennis strokes,” Alshon said. “In doubles, pickleball strokes are different. Tennis players, like myself, need months to undo their tennis wiring and reprogram it towards pickleball strokes (e.g. the dink - unlike any shot in tennis). In order for tennis players to succeed at pickleball, they need to realize that they’ve got to start with the basics in pickleball by taking steps back in order to take major steps forward.”
Both the tennis and pickleball communities will be very intrigued to see how Sock fares this week. The action can will be live from May 4-7 on both tennischannel.com and the Tennis Channel app.