Jack Sock is back in pickleball. We haven’t heard much from Sock when it comes to pickleball since his wildly impressive debut at the PPA’s Bubly Team Championships back in December. Jack Sock has been busy with his day job of professional tennis player. However, the hype is slowly starting to build as we get closer to Jack Sock’s pro pickleball debut at the beginning of May. This news isn’t recent as it was announced a while back that Sock would be making his pro debut at their North Carolina event at the beginning of May. While it sounded like Sock was looking to make his pro debut at some point in 2023, the surprise in the announcement was that his partners are slated to be Tyson McGuffin and Anna Leigh Waters. Yesterday, it was announced by the PPA Jack Sock will also be playing singles.
We have been very hard on the Sam Querrey situation since he was drafted first in the Challenger division. The big reason for the critique of Querrey was that his initial showing at the Bubly Team Championships made it clear he was not ready for prime time. It is not about players paying their dues if they are good enough to deserve an opportunity. Querrey has been just fine as a Challenger player and his MLP team was very close to being better than 1-5 through 2 events. However, just fine or somewhat passable is not good enough for the #1 overall selection.
In contrast, there is no question that Sock has the chops to play pro pickleball at the very highest level. He was the best pickleball player, of the tennis players, by far at the Bubly Championships and showed he could hang with some of the best players out there. It may not completely justify him getting the opportunity to partner with a couple of the game’s best players, including the #1 female, but pro pickleball is still a business. Anna Leigh Waters was likely available because Ben Johns seems to be dodging tournaments located at indoor pickleball venues and Tyson McGuffin and Jack Sock have developed a real, off-court friendship. Considering the marketing aspect of these partnerships, it’s a win for all parties involved.
It is hard to know what to expect from Jack Sock. The singles could be the most intriguing as we know the transition is generally easier for tennis players, Sock isn’t a brand new player to pickleball and it is unknown how much he practices singles. The most recent play we saw from Sock were some clips from Doug Ellin’s indoor pickleball court at his house playing with Querrey, John Isner, Wes Burrows and others. Going from playing loose at a team exhibition to having to make ball after ball in a real, tournament setting is a whole different ball game. For what it is worth, Brandon French was recently on the ‘It Feels Right’ podcast and said that Sock is someone he plays a lot with and is very good. There is going to be a target on Sock’s back but, at the same time, no one is going to take Sock and partner lightly because they have seen how talented Sock is already. James Ignatowich had this to say on Twitter after the announcement of Sock’s pro debut:
Doug Ellin wasn’t happy with Ignatowich’s joke but Ignatowich is not wrong. Despite the Querrey for Premier poem that the D.C. Pickleball Team released earlier this week, we have our doubts that a team owner will feel that the risk of drafting Querrey in season 2 of Challenger will be worth whatever bump in marketing that he might provide when a spot in Premier for 2024 is on the line. Unless D.C. wants to draft him again in Premier to maintain that Stella Blue Coffee sponsorship, Querrey has demonstrated he doesn’t care all that much about pro pickleball and, most importantly, he simply isn’t that good relative to the competition.
If Sock was in on pro pickleball, we have to think he would certainly be drafted in the Challenger division based on talent alone. He has said on Tyson McGuffin’s podcast that he wants to transition to pro pickleball when he is done with tennis. Again, it is difficult to know what to expect from Sock but we expect that the majority of fans will be rooting for, rather than against, Sock in his pro debut.
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