If you don't know who Jack Sock is in the world of American tennis, then you need to get to know this young 19-year-old from Nebraska. Yes, he's only currently ranked No. 250 in the world and hasn't really been on the radar of most American fans quite yet since he entered the professional ranks.
However, when you look at his fellow young American tennis players, the only other person that I think has a chance to be a good pro is Ryan Harrison. Most fans know of Harrison, himself just 20-years-old, because he's been on the ATP tour since 2007 and has recently been invited to play for the U.S. Davis Cup team. He decided to turn pro at a very young age to begin to get as much experience as he could instead of getting more experience in junior-level tennis. While he has gotten plenty of experience on the senior circuit in the past five years, there have been precious few results to show for it as of yet. Moreover, the one thing that he is best known for, his temper, recently got him into trouble when he acted like the petulant child during his singles match at the Summer Olympics.
Sock chose a slightly different path to the pro levels. Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska (just like Andy Roddick), Sock chose to stay home and remain an amateur during high school. Not only did he go undefeated (80-0) during those four years in high school, but he also won 18 USTA National Titles as a junior player. Those titles included the 2010 USTA Boys' 18 Nationals as well as the junior US Open title. Yes, those are junior titles, but those are still titles. Sometimes the path to improving oneself on the court involves learning what it takes to win, whether it is on a junior level or higher. Was he challenged as much as he would have been had he turned pro? Of course not, but getting constantly beaten down like young Harrison has been isn't always the path to improvement, either.
Sock turned pro in the summer of 2011 and has mostly played futures tournaments to try and acquire points to improve his rank like most young players do. As the Junior champion at the US Open in 2010, he was given a wild card slot in 2011 and actually won his first match against a much higher ranked player. Then, while still at the US Open, he went on to win the mixed doubles senior title with Melanie Oudin. After that Sock won a futures match on clay in January of this year and then made the semi-finals of his next clay futures event. Unfortunately, right as the heart of the ATP schedule started, Sock was sidelined with an abdominal tear that caused him to have surgery and miss several weeks of the season.
Now that he's back to playing at full strength, Sock showed what he could do after getting a wild card entry into the Masters 500 event in Atlanta. He won two matches there (including against No. 51 Alex Bogomolov) before being defeated by No. 11 John Isner 6-7, 4-6. Now that his health is back to 100%, he can begin to build the kind of endurance and strength that will be needed to start climbing the ranks of the ATP. He's currently 6'1 and 180 lbs (as listed on the ATP site), which is very similar to the builds of tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. I believe Jack Sock, in 2013, will truly contend with any of the other young American tennis players that are currently on tour.
Julie is a featured tennis contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. She's been following Jack Sock since he turned pro in 2011 and has very high hopes for him.