American Jack Sock is at a point in his career where he still encounters an occasional “first.” At this time last year, he was victorious it all the way through the singles draw at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston, winning his first ATP Tour title. This year, he has spent the week preparing to defend that title (and those ATP ranking points)—another first.
Today was the first step toward that goal. Being seeded in the draw meant getting a bye in the first round, which did not allow Sock to play competitively on Monday… or Tuesday… or Wednesday. But today, Thursday, Jack Sock proved that he is right on track. Generously serving with his usual speed an accuracy (and winning 80 percent of his first serve points), Sock defeated Australian Matthew Barton 6-2, 7-6(5). Barton also served well, with a few clocking in at 138 mph, but Sock’s imposing forehand (and his skill with a silent drop-shot or three) forced Barton to take too many risks, resulting in too many errors. Sock now moves on to the quarterfinals, where he will face Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.
Sock (the 25th-ranked player in the world) is not the only American who has made it to the quarterfinals. For the first time since 2012 there are four Americans moving on: Jack Sock, John Isner, Sam Querrey, and Tim Smyczek. Since all four have different opponents Friday, it is entirely possible that there might be four Americans in the semifinals. Which means, of course, that an American would take the title this year. From the swagger he shows on the court, and from the way he embraces the friendly Texas crowds, it looks like that American just might be Jack Sock again. If so, Sock would be a back-to-back champion. The first at this tournament since Andy Roddick in 2001-02.
RESULTS – Thursday, April 7, 2016
Singles Second Round
 Feliciano Lopez (Spain) d. Lukas Lacko (Slovakia) 7-6(1) 6-1
 Jack Sock (USA) d. [Q] Matthew Barton (Australia) 6-2 7-6(5)
 Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus) d. Fernando Verdasco (Spain) 6-4 6-3
[WC] Tim Smyczek (USA) d. Donald Young (USA) 6-2 6-4
 Bob Bryan (USA) / Mike Bryan (USA) d. [WC] Reilly Opelka (USA) / Tommy Paul (USA) 6-4 6-3
Hyeon Chung (Korea) / Julio Peralta (Chile) d.  Philipp Petzschner (Germany) / Alexander Peya (Austria) walkover (Petzschner – right knee)
Victor Estrella Burgos (Dominican Republic) / Santiago Gonzalez (Mexico) d.  Eric Butorac (USA) / Scott Lipsky (USA) 6-4 7-6(4)
 Steve Johnson (USA) / Sam Querrey (USA) d. Chris Guccione (Australia) / Andre Sa (Brazil) 6-3 2-6 10-8
SCHEDULE – Friday, April 8, 2016
Center Court – 12:00 noon start
 Sam Querrey (USA) vs Juan Monaco (Argentina)
[WC] Tim Smyczek (USA) vs  Feliciano Lopez (Spain)
Not Before 4:00 pm
 Bob Bryan (USA) / Mike Bryan (USA) vs  Steve Johnson (USA) / Sam Querrey (USA)
Not Before 6:00 pm
 John Isner (USA) vs Hyeon Chung (Korea)
 Jack Sock (USA) vs  Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus)
Court 3 – Not Before 7:00 pm start
After Suitable Rest – Victor Estrella Burgos (Dominican Republic) / Santiago Gonzalez (Mexico) vs Hyeon Chung (Korea) / Julio Peralta (Chile)