Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — Jack Sock has Andy Roddick on speed dial and has long looked up to him as a role model.
Now the two Nebraska natives will square off in a primetime, second-round battle at the U.S. Open Friday night under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I’m coming in looking to win,” Sock, originally from Lincoln, Neb., and the two-time USTA 18s champion, told reporters. “I wouldn’t enter a tournament, come to a tournament, if I didn’t think I could win some matches.”
Sock, 18, is ranked No. 555 in the world. He will be playing his first match on Ashe, the U.S. Open’s main showcourt, after dispatching with Frenchman Marc Gicquel on the new and intimate Court 17.
Roddick, 29, is ranked No. 21, and is the last American man to win a Grand Slam singles event, doing so at the Open in 2003. He has played more night matches on Ashe than anyone.
“I was joking with someone [Wednesday],” Roddick, an Omaha, Neb., native, said after his four-set win Wednesday over Michael Russell. “I said, I think we’re the only two teenagers to play tennis in Nebraska in the last 30 years and we’re both playing in the U.S. Open. Maybe we’re missing something. Maybe we need the corn-fed boys.”
The two Nebraskans will tangle on a day that will feature several other young American stars.
Christina McHale, the Englewood Cliffs, N.J., native who knocked off No. 8 Marion Bartoli Wednesday, will also play under the Friday night lights against Russia’s Maria Kirilenko beginning at 7 p.m.
On Friday afternoon, Americans Robby Ginepri and John Isner will square off in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Roddick downed Ginepri in 2000 for the U.S. Open junior boys title.
Americans Irina Falconi, who attended school in Harlem and then starred at Georgia Tech, and veteran Yonkers native James Blake will play their matches in the Grandstand.
Sloane Stephens, a 5-10 powerhouse who has drawn comparisons to Venus and Serena Williams, downed Shahar Peer, 6-1, 7-6 (4) on Thursday for her first Grand Slam singles victory. Stephens, 18, is the youngest woman left in the draw, and one of five American women into the third round. That’s the most since 2004, when eight made it.
Americans Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson, the reigning NCAA champ out of USC who lost Wednesday to American Alex Bogomolov, also show promise for the future.
“It’s the U.S. Open, it’s our Grand Slam, it’s our tournament and it’s our stage to do well,” Johnson told SNY.tv. “And to see how many American guys are in this. I think we have like 15 or 14 in the main draw, and to know that we’re all doing well and we’re pushing each other to get better, to get back to that tennis prominence that USA once was.”
Still, the marquee matchup will feature Sock against Roddick in a battle of the future of American tennis against its present.
“He’s pretty pumped up from what I’ve seen,” Roddick said. “It’s fun to watch the kids. When it’s all there, it’s all ahead of them, they have the incredible journey ahead of them.
“He’s excited. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain at this point.”
(The AP contributed)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.