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Sock Holds Off Zverev To Earn Surprising Semifinal Spot At Nitto ATP Finals

Jack Sock of the USA celebrates winning against Germany’s Alexander Zverev during their Round Robin match at the ATP World tennis finals in London, Britain, 16 November 2017. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN



By Ricky Dimon


Jack Sock was supposed to be playing golf at Augusta National this week. He didn’t want to miss that tee time for nothing.


Making the most of his last-minute trip to London, Sock booked a place in the semis of the World Tour Finals when he ousted Alexander Zverev 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in a virtual quarterfinal contest on Thursday night. The American improved to 2-1 this week and earned the second spot out of Group B by prevailing in one hour and 53 minutes.


It was a roller-coaster affair in which Sock got a warning for ball abuse early in the first set before righting the ship. After saving two break points in his opening service game and another at 2-3, he took control with a break of his own for 4-3. Sock consolidated his lead throughout the rest of set one only to get broken early in the second and fall behind 2-0. Content to recharge his batteries for a third, the world No. 9 all but donate the rest of the middle frame to Zverev.


The momentum swings were nowhere over. After getting broken right away in the decider, Sock sent another ball into the upper deck on the O2 Arena and incurred a point penalty. It was the only point Zverev would “win” in his ensuing service game. The 20-year-old wasted his automatic 15-0 and gave the break back four points later. At 4-2 in was Sock’s turn to give back a break, but the final turn came with Zverev toeing the line at 4-5. A double-fault by the German at 30-30 gave his opponent a match point, and it ended when Zverev missed a forehand wide.


“Yeah, I choked,” Zverev said when asked if the pressure got to him. “It’s quite easy. (I) won the second set 6-1; I was 1-0 with a break (in the third). He got a point penalty. I was down 1-4 within 10 minutes where I didn’t put many balls in the court. When I got back at 4-5, that’s one of the worst games I think I played all year. So, yeah, I just choked.”


“It’s tough,” Sock responded when told about Zverev’s analysis. “The guy is 20 years old. He’s played some absolutely outstanding tennis in his career. (He) can’t even legally drink a beer in the U.S. and he’s (No.) 3 in the world. I don’t know. It could be nerves. It could be the expectations for him, as well.”


Sock, on the other hand, had no expectations to even be in London. And he deserves more credit than he got from Zverev, because he’s playing like it. The 25-year-old dictated play more often than not with his forehand and produced enough variation aggressiveness and slices off the backhand side to keep Zverev off balance.


“Like I said all week, I’m kind of playing with house money,” Sock explained. “I’m going out there and kind of letting loose, having fun, trying to put on a show a little bit; just enjoy my time.”


And his time will include at least two more days, because has now earned a semifinal date with Grigor Dimitrov.


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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