2016 U.S. Open: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Jack Sock

TSONGASOCK

It’s uncharted territory for Jack Sock as the American plays for his first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal. For Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, he can book back-to-back quarterfinal appearances at the U.S. Open with a win.

(9) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs (26) Jack Sock
Both players head into round four off of straight sets wins in round three. Tsonga continued his master of Kevin Anderson with a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory. It marked the 9th seed’s fourth straight win over Anderson. Sock provided one of the shockers of the day on Friday with a straight sets win over 7th seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Cilic seemed to struggle with the wind some in that match, but Sock played an extremely clean match.

This week, Tsonga has featured his patented play. Big first serves and solid work with his forehand. He’s been broken just three times on 14 break chances this week. He saved all seven break points against Anderson in round three. Tsonga has won 80 percent or better of his first serve points in all three matches so far at the U.S. Open. He has also cut down on his unforced errors. He had 27 and 32 respectively in the opening two rounds, but just 18 against Anderson. That could have been the product of the comfortable match-up as he didn’t craft as many winners either with a tournament low of 29 versus Anderson.

Sock has improved greatly as the week has gone on after a sluggish five set win over Taylor Fritz to start the week. In that match, Sock was broken nine times on 15 break chances. Since then, he has faced one break point and saved it. He too has cut down on hsi unforced errors after spraying 73 against Fritz, Sock has made just 33 in the last two rounds combined. His serve looked particularly stout against Cilic, where the 26th seed won 87 percent of his first serve points and 71 percent off his second serve. The win marked just the third time that Sock has beaten a Top 10 opponent, with two of those now coming against Cilic.

Sunday’s fourth round showdown will be just the second meeting between Tsonga and Sock. The Frenchman outlasted Sock in a third set tie break in their lone meeting last year on clay in Madrid. Sock actually won three more points in the match than Tsonga did (81-78) in the 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (4) Tsonga win. Both players had their issues with second serves with Tsonga winning 46 percent of his points and Sock just 43 percent. The 9th seeded Frenchman was broken three times on four chances, while the American was broken two times on two chances.

I don’t think Sunday’s clash is going to feature too many surprises from either side. Both players will look to dominate their service games on first serve and avoid too many second serves. Both are prototypical in their serve approaches with both preferring to go up the T on the deuce court in big spots and out wide on the AD court. That again to me as with the Cilic match-up is where Tsonga should be looking to go after Sock’s weaker side, the backhand. I don’t think Cilic did nearly enough of that in round three. The majority of Sock’s errors do come from that wing and as an opponent, I would still be of the mindset to make him earn it there and avoid that rocket forehand.

From that ground stroke perspective, it is Tsonga who does have the more complete game. His two handed backhand is more consistent than Sock’s. Still, both players would rather target the backhand of each other as the forehand is the major weapon for both. At the same time, that also means both players will run around to hit those forehands when at all possible and there are likely to be a ton of forehand to forehand exchanges in this one. It’s going to come down to who stays patient and picks their spot to end points effectively in those cases. Generally, I think that favors Tsonga, but Sock showed better discipline against Cilic in that aspect. It is a matter of whether or not Sock can match that level of consistency and good dcision making.

Experience wise, all signs would point to Tsonga here. In New York with a vocal crowd behind him, Sock has a real chance though. One big factor for Sunday could be weather. The remnants of Hurricane Hermine have drifted up the East Coast of the United States and wind will play a big factor on the outer courts if play is scheduled. It’s not going to favor anyone if play goes on, it is going to be a big nuisance for both players. Sock’s consistency is the other factor for me. Even though Tsonga has seen better days, he is still a strong and experienced competitor at this stage. Sock is not. Perhaps this is just time for Sock to make his mark, but I have the feeling that he won’t be able to reproduce what he did against Cilic and/or have an opponent who is struggling again. I do think this could be one hell of a battle regardless.

Prediction
Tsonga wins in five sets

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