Jack Sock Uses Up All Nine Of His Lives, Finally Falls To Dimitrov in London Semifinals Of The Nitto ATP Championships

Written by: on 18th November 2017
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Jack Sock
U.S. player Jack Sock in action against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov during their semi-final match during the ATP Finals in London, Britain, 18 November 2017. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

U.S. player Jack Sock in action against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov during their semi-final match during the ATP Finals in London, Britain, 18 November 2017. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL  |

By Ricky Dimon

Jack Sock went away quietly in the second set of his ATP Nitto Finals match against Grigor Dimitrov, but he was not about to see his season-ending run evaporate with a whimper. Sock provided plenty of drama right up until the finish line before Dimitrov finally got the best of him via a 4-6, 6-0, 3-6 decision in Saturday’s second semifinal.

Sock was not just a surprising semifinalist at the O2 Arena, but he was also a long-shot simply to be in the event. At No. 24 in the race to London going into the Rolex Paris Masters, Sock needed to win that title to qualify for the ATP Finals. And he did just that, even battling back from a 5-1 third-set deficit against Kyle Edmund in his first match. With Sock having won each of his last two matchups against Dimitrov from match point down, there was even more reason to think this one would not be easy to close out for the world No. 6.

After Sock took the first set from a break down and then all but threw away the second, a high-quality third ensued. Drama came quickly and frequently in the last two games, fist with Sock serving at 3-4. The American twice had a game point to hold for 4-4, and on one he clipped the net cord with what was on the way to being a winning forehand volley. Dimitrov ended up striking for the decisive break a few points later.

At 5-3, Dimitrov surged to a 40-15 lead. But he squandered two match points en route to deuce and soon missed two more opportunities. Doubts must have been creeping in, especially given that Dimitrov had blown four match points when he lost to Sock earlier this season in Indian Wells. This time, though, the sixth seed held his nerve. On his fifth chance, Dimitrov forced Sock into a forehand error and thus triumphed after one hour and 59 minutes.

“You cannot allow yourself to think about that on such a big occasion–such a big point, for example,” Dimitrov answered when asked if he was thinking about his previous failures against Sock. (In) the past two matches, (I was) super unfortunate. But that’s what makes the game so special. You know, sometimes not only that you have to fight yourself mentally, but you need to fight the demons from previous matches or your opponent. There’s just so many things that you bring out.

“I was very happy the way I handled the pressure. Even though I was down a break point or something, even if I had to play an extra game or games, I had to accept it. I think you learn from those moments. I certainly learned from that experience.”

“Shouldn’t have been here in the first place,” Sock said when asked about his first year-end championship appearance. “To be here, my first appearance here, to make the semis, getting through a pretty tough group I thought, beating some good players…. For my first time, to play the three guys that were in our group, to get through, was a big confidence-booster for me.

“I’m definitely going to take the experience from the last three weeks, everything I learned, all the things I did well in the matches, things I can improve, work on those in the off-season, and get ready for 2018.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

 

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