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Sock moves into quarters and does it with a smile

Author: Andrew Gilman | February 23, 2024

Jack Sock is just out looking for a forehand and having a good time.

Simple as that. 

And Thursday in the round of 16 in Mesa, Ariz., against one of the game’s biggest names Tyson McGuffin, there was plenty of the former and enough of the latter to sustain a land-bound pleasure cruise.

Sock runs so far left for forehands, it’s like he’s allergic to his backhand. And it worked. He dominated the third-seeded McGuffin in the deciding third game, 11-2 for arguably the best win in his second career of pickleball.

“It’s working,” Sock said after the 11-7, 9-11, 11-2 victory that was part pickleball, part Open Mic night at the comedy club. Sock joked, danced, and laughed with people in the crowd, McGuffin and even his North Carolina crew of fellow PPA stars Collin Shick and Brooke Buckner.

“I feel like I can do about anything from the left side and I’m going to keep doing it until it doesn’t work.”

Hard to argue against the theory. Sock hunted down forehands like they were in-season. Meanwhile, between passing shots, it looked like he and Shick were part of a gigantic inside joke. Both were laughing as if they were part of some frat-house shenanigans.

There was finger pointing, dancing and everything but a secret handshake on the court from Sock who wore a smile as easily as he did his Selkirk hat.

“I love playing and practicing,” Sock said. “It’s been a blast. “I want to have as much fun as possible and hopefully it shows because I’m having a great time.”

Sock came in as the No. 17 seed, and now he’s just a pair of wins away from playing in his first Championship Sunday singles final. He made a final last year in his home city of Charlotte, N.C., alongside Anna Leigh Waters in mixed doubles, but hasn’t medaled in singles in his short PPA career, despite a rapid ascension this year.

He’s already beaten two other top 10 seeds in tournament play – Connor Garnett and Jay Devilliers, and now has an even bigger win against the dynamic McGuffin.

“I put in a lot of time back in Charlotte,” Sock said. “I’ve worked on the craft and I may not have years of pickleball, but I feel like I kind of know what I’m doing out there. I feel like if I play well, I can give a good battle to anyone. I’m not too scared of any of the guys in the draw, but I’m happy with the win.”

He’ll take on Cason Campbell in the quarterfinals Friday. Campbell shocked another top player, beating Dylan Frazier Thursday, 11-4, 3-11, 11-6. Frazier earned gold at the PPA’s first tournament of the year in January, winning in Palm Springs, Calif. Meanwhile, Campbell has now beaten four players seeded better than him, including beating the 12th-seeded Shick in the round of 32. 

Sock lost to Federico Staksrud in the semifinals in Palm Springs.  

On Thursday during his match with McGuffin, Sock had a conversation with fans, talked to McGuffin repeatedly during the match, and of course, carried on with Shick and Buckner, too. A bit different from his tennis days when the on-court personality isn’t as easy to display.

“I love the banter,” Sock said. “One of the things I love about pickleball is you can have fun out there at the same time you’re competing.”

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