Another good American on American clash in Atlanta is set for Thursday. 3rd seeded Jack Sock gets his 1st singles match as he battles qualifier Denis Kudla. Kudla wiggled past Ryan Harrison in the opening round via a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 scoreline. The match was mostly even with Kudla simply coming up just a bit stronger on some key points in the final set tie break. For Sock, this is his 1st singles match back on hard courts after finishing the grass court season in Newport a few weeks back. He does have a bit of match play on these courts though with a doubles match already under his belt this week.
Sock is defending semifinal points this week in Atlanta. Last year, top seeded John Isner took him out in the semis in straight sets. Sock’s rocket forehand and stout serve seemed well suited to this venue though as he did not drop a set in three matches prior to the Isner clash. Sock has plenty to gain this summer during this hard court swing as he went just 2-3 last Summer following his Atlanta run. That culminated with a disappointing opening round loss in the U.S. Open to Pablo Andujar when he had to retire with a calf injury. So he as plenty of points to gain as he tries to improve on his #39 ranking.
For Kudla, it’s the same story as when he took on Harrison last round. Another chance to continue his Summer momentum and a chance for a bigger name scalp on his resume. Kudla was solid against Harrison, but not forced to do anything out of the ordinary really. He served well, winning 78% on 1st serve and his ground game was steady. Against Sock, I think the service games will be amplified as Sock, when on his A-game, has a pounding 1st serve that can earn him a plethora of free points. From that standpoint, the serve edge for me goes to Sock.
From a strategy standpoint, Kudla would be wise to go after Sock’s weaker wing and test the backhand. It has improved some from what I have seen, but is still far less reliable and effective than Sock’s wicked missile of a forehand. I think forehand-to-forehand exchanges won’t be a winning formula for Kudla on Thursday. Sock just has too much power on that side. If you notice that being the run of play in this match, then the final scoreline should reflect a Sock victory.
For Sock, it will be about getting his 1st serve in consistently to start. On a surface switch and playing your 1st match, getting your serve in for some cheap points or to set yourself up for quick points in rallies is always smart. For the season, Sock is getting in about 55% of his 1st serves. He wins 76% of those, so it is obviously a big edge when those 1st serves are getting put into play. His 2nd serve is still effective at a 54% win rate, but obviously gives Kudla a better shot to put himself into winning positions in rallies when he’s dealing with a less effective serve.
The bottom line for me in this one is that this match should be dictated by Sock’s serve and forehand. Kudla should be able to match him for a while, but if he can’t consistently go after Sock’s backhand, Sock should prevail. Many have tried to work Sock this way, it’s definitely not an easy proposition. I think Kudla’s best chance is to jump on Sock in the 1st set when he may not be quite in the groove. Sock is a tremendous front runner when he wins the opening set in a match, going 11-2 this season when he wins the opening set at the ATP level. He’s 6-6 when dropping the opening set.
Sock in straight sets