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For the first time since he played junior tennis, Jack Sock didn’t have a ball boy helping out. And for the first time since he played junior tennis, Sock had to call his own lines.

That’s what happens when you play a pickleball tournament for the first time. Sock, a former top-10 tennis player in both singles and doubles, made his pro debut Thursday in Charlotte, N.C., at the North Carolina Open, winning a pair of matches before losing in the quarterfinals.

“I actually forgot the first couple points (to call the ball out),” Sock said. 

Well, once Sock got comfortable, which didn’t take long, he cruised through his first two matches. 

“I was excited to play,” he said. “I love competing and I still love tennis, but to have another outlet is good and this is a fun way to get out there.”

Don’t be fooled. It’s not like Sock just laced up some shoes and jumped on the court Thursday morning. He’s been training extensively and is also scheduled to play Friday with Anna Leigh Waters in mixed doubles and Tyson McGuffin in men’s doubles on Saturday.

Sock is definitely committed to playing pickleball, but he isn’t saying he’s ready to give up tennis. 

“Obviously, down the road I’ll be involved in pickleball and playing a good schedule,” he said. “I’m not sure about next year yet. Time will tell.”

Sock came into the tournament Thursday as the No. 20 seed. He defeated the No. 13 seed Anton Gudz 11-8, 11-4 in the first round and then narrowly escaped his expected matchup against high-profile star James Ignatowich after Ignatowich lost to qualifier, Naveen Beasley. 

Sock dominated Beasley in the round of 16, 11-2, 11-2 and earned himself a matchup against 12th seeded Jake Kusmider. While Sock had yet to face a highly seeded opponent, Kusmider came into the quarterfinals having beaten Zane Navratil in the first round and No. 5 seed Dylan Frazier after that.

“I felt much more comfortable in the second round,” Sock said. “The pickle world is hyped up now and there’s expectation on me to put on a decent performance.”

Sock can definitely take credit for doing that. He rallied from a 5-0 deficit in the first game against Kusmider and ended up winning that game 11-9. After falling 11-5 in the second game, Sock got behind 10-0 in the third but made it a match by getting to within 10-7.

“I never thought I could play against him in any sport,” Kusmider said. “It was a good battle out there. I’m scared to play him next time.”

Not sure when that next time will be. Sock said he decided to play singles, so he would be ready for his doubles matches alongside Waters and McGuffin.

“I had decent expectations coming in,” Sock said. “I wanted to get comfortable before I teamed up with Anna Leigh. I’m happy I got some matches in and will feel better going into tomorrow. People underestimate the physical side of singles. It’s tougher than people think. I’ve done a lot of running and explosive steps. Singles is a blast, but to play it at all the tournaments, is probably not going to happen.”

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