Nadal Faces Forehand Battle With Sock, Lone American in Paris

Rafael Nadal
Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal. Photographer: Peter Staples/ATP via Getty Images

Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal’s next opponent at the French Open is a clay-loving American with a forehand to rival his own.

Jack Sock’s 77 miles-per-hour average is as fast as Nadal’s, with almost as much spin. The 22-year-old Nebraska native is the last American man in the tournament, and the youngest into the last 16 at Roland Garros since Pete Sampras in

1993.

“I’m excited to see the forehand-to-forehand battle,” Sock said in a news conference after he dismissed Croatian teenager Borna Coric in straight sets in the third round on Saturday. “It will be a chess match -- who can find the forehand first and open up the court. I will have to be thinking on every shot, every point.”

It’s the first meeting between the 37th-ranked Sock and Nadal, who has yet to drop a set at Roland Garros this year.

Defending women’s champion Maria Sharapova of Russia plays Czech Lucie Safarova first on Philippe-Chatrier Court Monday after rain forced cancellations on Sunday.

They will be followed by former champion Roger Federer, who was tied one set all with France’s Gael Monfils when their match was stopped for darkness at 8:30 p.m. in Paris. The Swiss took the first set 6-3, before Monfils rallied to win the second 6-4.

Women’s top seed Serena Williams will also be in action Monday against fellow American Sloane Stephens. Men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia meets France’s Richard Gasquet while Britain’s Andy Murray plays France’s Jeremy Chardy.

Sock’s Shots

In March, data collected by Hawkeye during the Indian Wells tournament in California showed Sock’s forehand is as fast as Nadal’s and two miles quicker than 17-time major singles champion Federer. It also showed Sock’s whipped shot produced 3,337 average revolutions per minute, compared with 3,391 for Nadal and 2,925 for Federer.

Nadal’s high-bouncing, top-spin laden forehand has been a key shot behind his success at Roland Garros, where he’s trying to win a 10th title.

“He has an amazing forehand, good serve, very good serve, and then he’s a player that can play very aggressive and is dangerous,” Nadal said of the 6-foot-3-inch (1.9 meters) Sock. “I have to play aggressive, try to don’t let him hit the forehand in positions, because I am going to be in big trouble.”

The Spaniard has struggled against tall players in the past, with his only defeat in Paris coming at the hands of 6-foot-4 Robin Soderling of Sweden in 2009.

Sock, who compiled an 80-0 record in his high school career in Kansas and won the 2010 U.S. Open junior title, has had a tumultuous year.

He missed the first two months of 2015 after pelvic surgery. In January, his older brother Eric was on life support after contracting a rare bacterial infection. He’s since recovered, but two weeks ago, Sock found out his grandfather is battling Alzheimer’s. The player penned “4Ugpa” on his shoes during his previous match in Paris.

“It’s something that everyone goes through,” he said. “Hopefully after this tournament I can get back and go see him.”

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