April 7, 2020

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“PopSock” is BACK, baby: Pospisil and Sock get the band back together

Remember “PopSock”?

Or was it “PospiSock?”

Either way, if you do, we have good news for you.

They’re BAAAAAACK.

Canadian Vasek Pospisil and American Jack Sock had a great run together as a doubles pair, winning Wimbledon as an unseeded pair in 2014.

They added Indian Wells and Beijing the following year.

They reached the Indian Wells final again in 2016, narrowly missing the title defense in a loss to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

And they made four other Masters 1000 finals together.

The relationship petered out by 2016, notably because of Pospisil’s drop in the singles rankings at the time because of injury, and the challenges of logistics.

Both also wanted to focus on singles – notably Sock – and getting a firm commitment on both sides to play regularly together was becoming a challenge.

But mostly it was because it was an Olympic year.

Pospisil played some events with countryman Daniel Nestor in 2016. And Sock teamed up with fellow American Steve Johnson.

As it happened, the two pairs met in Rio to battle for the bronze medal, which was won by the Americans.

Back to the future for PopSock

The Can-American pair has entered both Indian Wells and Miami together. 

The initial cutoff at Indian Wells is pretty tight (a combined ranking of No. 54, which means Delray beach champions Bob and Mike Bryan just squeeze in). 

Even using their respective protected rankings (Pospisil’s singles ranking at No. 73, and Sock’s doubles ranking at No. 2), they don’t come close.

But you’d have to think, given their history at the event and the fact that Sock is an American, they’d be in line for one of the three wild cards.

In Miami, where the cutoff is generally lower, they would make it with their protected rankings, based on last year’s numbers.

Interesting times for both

The two players are at very different places in their careers compared to when they last teamed up.

Sock’s travails are well-known. But even in 2018 when he struggled to win in singles, he won six doubles titles – including Indian Wells with John Isner, and Wimbledon, the US Open and the ATP Tour Finals with Mike Bryan.

He turned away the notion that he should become a doubles specialist, his sights still firmly set on singles success.

For Pospisil, the problems were mostly physical.

He had been dealing with major back woes for years, and was having trouble staying on the court just to play singles – never mind adding doubles to the mix.

But after back surgery a year ago January, he has made a delightful resurgence in singles.

As well, even with all the tennis he played on the recently-completed European indoor swing, he played doubles with Mahut in Marseille last week. The two won the title going away.

Interestingly, we’re hearing that Nestor, now retired, may be headed to Indian Wells and Miami as a doubles coach for Tennis Canada. No firm details on that as yet. But it all seems to be coming together with Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov also planning to play.

Other interesting teams lined up

As many as six teams can sign in on site at both Masters 1000 tournaments. And players can use their singles rankings to enter. So, especially at Indian Wells, some last-minute, high-wattage teams can decide to play.

But already, there are some interesting pairings confirmed.

Among them is Pospisil’s countryman and good friend Félix Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime, who is scheduled to play with Monaco’s Hugo Nys this week in Acapulco, is entered with … Fabio Fognini at Indian Wells.

Another Canadian, Denis Shapovalov, is entered in both Indian Wells and Miami with regular doubles partner Rohan Bopanna.

Here are a few other potential Indian Wells teams:

*Stan Wawrinka and Alexander Zverev
*David Goffin and Diego Schwartzman
*Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem
*Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev
*Gaël Monfils and Adrian Mannarino

Nick Kyrgios and Dan Evans – a funky team if ever there was one – are entered in both Indian Wells and Miami. But they might not make the cut.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is scheduled to team up Pablo Cuevas in Indian Wells (it will be tough for them to get in), and with Thiem in Miami.

Rublev is entered with Feliciano Lopez in Miami. But several weeks remain before the deadline there.

Milos Raonic has entered Indian Wells with Croatia’s Franko Skugor. But they’re also unlikely to get in.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be a fun doubles event in the desert – as usual.