Jack Sock is in for a busy weekend at the third staging of the Laver Cup, set to take over Geneva on Friday. Team World captain John McEnroe believes Sock is currently the game’s best doubles player, and he’s probably right.
Perhaps that’s why McEnroe has featured the Nebraska native in the Laver Cup's first six doubles matches over the past two editions. Sock's dominant 5-1 record tells us he is likely to feature in every one this weekend. Just a handful of forehands can elicit fear from the world’s best players and Sock possesses one of them.
The American and partner Denis Shapovalov will cap off Friday’s night session against Team Europe’s Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev. The Swiss will look to end his two-match losing streak versus Sock in doubles, but it’s not entirely up to him.
Doubles is not rocket science: the first and most important step is to make your first serve and first volley. The next step is to work in conjunction with your partner to cover most of your line and the middle of the court. If your opponent wants to hit short angle crosscourt passing shots, you let them. After that, the game plan simplifies: target the weaker player.
Sock’s level will remain relatively constant, as will Federer’s. It’s up to Zverev or Shapovalov to win this match for their respective squads. If Sock is gifted a mid-court forehand, he will target Zverev more often than not. Federer will aim for Shapovalov at the net, as he’s learned the hard way not to test Sock’s hands.
Playing Sock in doubles is a nightmare. I know from experience having played him many times in junior competition. The combination of his extreme western grip and racquet-head speed produce the tennis equivalent of a Clayton Kershaw curveball. Volleying a ball curving up and down is exponentially more difficult than volleying a ball hit on a straight line. It is almost impossible to execute a clean volley when Sock crushes his forehand, and Zverev’s net game is certainly not his strong suit.
On the court, the players haven't treated the Laver Cup like an exhibition in the past—and now that it's officially recognized on the ATP calendar, every result counts in the record books. Regardless of the outcome, it's a rare and welcome opportunity to see Federer compete in hig-stakes, high-intensity doubles. He will not want to lose to Sock for the third straight time, and will have the added incentive of playing in his home country.