Tennis Grand Slams: Who is the greatest of all time?
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Rafael Nadal’s latest opponent has shared the keys to beating the world number three ahead of their clash. The Spaniard will face former world number 8 Jack Sock in his first match since a shock defeat at the French Open. The pair will face off in the primetime night session at the Citi Open in Washington tomorrow (August 4).
Nadal is playing in Washington for the first time in his career, after being forced to pull out of Wimbledon and the Olympics with a foot injury that left him unable to play for 20 days.
The second round encounter with Sock will be his first match since losing to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of Roland Garros almost two months ago.
While the number 192 in the world seems like an easier opponent for Nadal on paper, Sock’s ranking is no reflection of his true potential.
The American has previously been as high as number 8 in the world, winning the Paris Masters 1000 at the end of 2017 and securing a spot at the exclusive ATP Finals.
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He posted wins over Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev to make the semi-finals at the year-end event that year, and also has multiple Grand Slam titles and Olympic medals in doubles.
The 28-year-old lost his form after a stellar 2017 and focused more on doubles the following year, pairing with Mike Bryan for the second half of the season when his brother Bob was injured in Madrid.
Sock went on to win Wimbledon, the US Open and the ATP Finals alongside the Bryan brother later that year but since then has scarcely been seen on tour.
Now in his comeback, he is relishing the opportunity to play the world number three and has shared the keys he believes can win him the match.
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According to TennisHead, after his first round win by retirement he said: “I looked up and saw my first serve percentage after the first set and that’s just not going to work against Rafa.”
The American faced Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round, who was forced to retire with a calf injury despite leading 7-6(3) 0-4.
Sock added: “I was able to get away with it against Yoshi [Nishioka] but Rafa will punish that and start dictating points so first serve percentage for sure.
“Depth on my forehand (is important) too. My forehand feels good, it feels heavy. Kind of like it always is. But I definitely need to get the ball a bit deeper than I did tonight to have a chance.”
It will still be a tough task for the former Masters 1000 champion to dispose of Nadal, with the 35-year-old leading their head to head by four wins to none.
They last played at the inaugural Laver Cup in Prague back in 2017, then an unofficial event, counting as something of a fifth win that the Spaniard has over the American.
After splitting the first two sets, Nadal won the match tiebreak to secure points for Team Europe.
In official ATP Tour events, the pair faced off twice during Sock’s standout 2017 season at the Masters 1000 events in Rome and Miami, with the former world number one winning both in straight sets.
Prior to that, Sock was able to snatch a set from the left-hander in two meetings in 2015 at the ATP 500 event in China and at Nadal’s best tournament, Roland Garros.
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