Latest American hope Jack Sock advances

Jack Sock returns the ball with a forehand

Jack Sock returns the ball with a forehand against Flavio Cipolla in their men's singles match at the U.S. Open. (Aug. 30, 2012) (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

Jack Sock delivered his eponymous blow in the eighth game of the third set of his second-round U.S. Open match against Italian Flavio Cipolla Thursday -- a forceful blow off the charging Cipolla's chest on game point.

With that sock, the 19-year-old Nebraska native put his forceful mark on a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory. More than that, he appeared to leapfrog several more familiar names in officially throwing his hat into the ring of the ongoing next-American-male-tennis-star campaign.

That, in the midst of a swirl of Open developments that included an announcement by Sock's mentor, Andy Roddick, that he will be retiring after the Open; an upset loss by No. 5 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; a routine second-round, straight-sets victory by Roger Federer over Germany's Bjorn Phau; and the latest iteration of a 2012 Open theme: How I learned to stop worrying and love the five-set comeback.

The latest of 10 two-sets-down-to-ultimate victory matches -- already an Open record on the tournament's fourth day -- involved veteran American Mardy Fish. Behind 4-6, 6-7 (4) to Nikolay Davydenko, the relentless Russian who twice has been an Open semifinalist, Fish gathered himself to win the last three sets, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2, and advance to the third round.

The record for such comebacks in a Grand Slam event is 14, at the 2002 Australian Open. And, truth be told, "No, I don't like them very much," Fish said. "You sort of want to stay away from the longer matches" -- this one 3 hours, 26 minutes-- "to try to give yourself some room to go as far as you can."

He will take it, of course. As opposed to what Tsonga got in an uneven 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 loss to Martin Klizan, the 50th-ranked player from Slovakia.

"It seemed like I couldn't hit the ball hard enough to put my opponent out of position," said Tsonga, who had been mentioned by some experts as a legitimate challenger to Open favorites Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

"Anyway, it's tennis," Tsonga said. "Sometimes I'm tired; sometimes not. Sometimes in good shape; sometimes not."

In good shape for now are two Americans from different generations, 24-year-old Sam Querrey and 32-year-old James Blake. Both won in straight sets, Querrey over No. 85 Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain, Blake over Spaniard Marcel Granollers, ranked 24th.

Into this fire of activity ran Sock, the kid ranked a mere 248th as he completes his first year as a professional. He took care of Cipolla, who beat him in Los Angeles a month ago, with a resolved patience and a serve that saved 12 of 13 break points against him.

Then Sock -- the 2010 Open's boys champion -- teamed with Melanie Oudin, his partner in winning last year's Open mixed doubles title, for a first-round victory. (Two days earlier, Sock and partner Steve Johnson upset the top-seeded men's doubles team of Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor.)

Which sounds like a 1-2-3 punch from a new American crowd favorite.

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