As the final Masters 1000 of the season kicks off this week, there will be plenty of players hoping to win the biggest title of their career. The Paris Masters has often thrown up some surprise champions, including Jack Sock in 2017. The American stormed to the title, making his top 10 debut and nabbing a spot in the ATP Finals as a result. But Sock decided to retire this year, ditching tennis for pro pickleball as the sport sweeps the United States.
Paris-Bercy has often been a place where players have been able to take a good opportunity to win their maiden Masters title, with Sock, Karen Khachanov and Holger Rune among the recent examples. The tournament was a springboard for Sock back in 2017, after the American started the year strong but struggled for form later on.
The 31-year-old started the year by winning the Auckland title and cracking the top 20, also having strong runs in Indian Wells and Miami. But things later went quiet until the Paris Masters. Sock entered the tournament at No 22 in the world and ended it with the biggest title of his career in singles, also managing to qualify for the ATP Finals.
His result in Paris was a springboard for a strong finish to the season, as he reached the semi-final on his debut at the season-ending championships and ended the year as the world No 8. But Sock has now given all of that up to play pickleball.
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After his triumphant end to 2017, Sock was never able to recapture the same form in singles, though he achieved success in doubles – winning Grand Slams and the ATP Finals. He decided to retire at this year’s US Open, partnering with John Isner – who also retired at the same tournament – in the men’s doubles.
He also played mixed doubles with Coco Gauff but the American lost both of his matches in the first round, ending his career. It was then announced that Sock had signed a contract with the Professional Pickleball Association. The 31-year-old had already played a pickleball tournament back in May, winning the mixed doubles with Anna Leigh Waters.
But Sock knew that it was tough for a tennis player to ditch their sport for pickleball. When he played his first event in May, he told the PPA: “The tennis players that think they’re going to jump over and just kill it, it’s not going to be as easy as some think. The top pickleball players are really good.”
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As Sock makes a shift into a new sport, his Paris Masters-winning days will be firmly behind him. The former world No 8 is one of many tennis players, including fellow American Sam Querrey, who have given pickleball a go, as the sport continues to boom State-side. There are now a host of courts in New York’s Central Park, and the likes of LeBron James and Tom Brady have already invested in the sport.
Although Sock won’t be seen on a tennis court again, there will be plenty of players hoping to repeat his heroics this week in Paris as they look to capture the trophy. The likes of Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev will be looking to add to their Masters title hauls while players like Casper Ruud and Ben Shelton are still in search of their first.
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