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ATP • NITTO Tennis 10sBalls Shares Ricky’s Preview From London • A Peak At Jack Sock Versus Marin Cilic

By Ricky Dimon

 

Marin Cilic and Jack Sock will be faced with borderline must-win situations when they go head-to-head during round-robin competition at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals on Tuesday afternoon. With both players 0-1 following their first matches, semifinal contention will all but fall away for whoever loses once again.

 

It is Cilic who has come out on the short end in each of their two previous meetings. Sock got the job done twice during the summer of 2016; 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 at home in the Davis Cup quarters and 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 at the U.S. Open.

 

Sock appeared to have gone this entire season without running into Cilic a single time, but that all changed in Paris–where he delayed the start of his offseason by two weeks. The world No. 9 had to win the Paris title in order to have any chance at a London appearance and he also needed a lot of help from other WTF contenders. He got both. By far the biggest title of Sock’s career propelled Sock to his debut appearance at the O2 Arena, where he had to open against Roger Federer and played well during a 6-4, 7-6(4) loss.

 

Cilic led Alexander Zverev by a break in the final set of their round-robin match on Sunday night, but Zverev bounced back to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. In two previous trips to London this year, the world No. 5 Croat did not lose early. He finished runner-up to Feliciano Lopez at Queen’s Club (fell 10-8 in the third-set tiebreaker) and also advanced to the Wimbledon final (lost to Federer in three sets). Cilic is 44-20 in 2017 with three semifinal finishes this fall plus a quarterfinal showing at the Paris Masters.

 

“Obviously I’m going to play Jack (in the) next match,” the 2014 U.S. Open champion said. “I believe I need to win that one to give myself a chance to go through (to the semifinals). Well, one positive thing today is that I won a set in the match that I lost, so it could maybe make a difference towards the end.

 

“It’s a slightly different tournament than what we were used to. Even with the loss, you can go through. I’m just going to try to stay positive and focus on the next match.”

 

Jack Sock of the USA in action against Roger Federer of Switzerland during their Men’s singles Round Robin match at the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London, Britain, 12 November 2017. EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER

“Probably not,” Sock responded when asked if it would get easier after facing Federer in his first match. “Since everyone here is top eight in the world, everyone is a pretty good tennis player. I don’t know. It will be different for sure. Roger puts a pressure on you that I feel no other player really does. I’ll definitely be able to hit my way into the next few matches, have some longer rallies, (and)not feel sort of the presence he puts on you when you’re out there. I’ve had wins against both (Cilic and Zverev); had losses (one loss to Zverev), as well. But at least I can take stuff away from those matches where I’ve had the wins and apply it.”

 

The American does not have home-court advantage this time, so Cilic–a World Tour Finals veteran–should have a better shot. If the Croat serves well and can dictate rallies to Sock’s backhand, some revenge for last year’s losses may be in the cards.

 

Pick: Cilic in 3

 

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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