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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, November 18, 2017

Grigor Dimitrov, Jack Sock

Jack Sock saved four match points defeating the Grigor Dimitrov in their last meeting and expects another dynamic clash when they square at the Nitto ATP Finals semifinals tonight.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

LONDON—Jack Sock has turned tie breakers to heart breakers for Grigor Dimitrov.

Both will try to play first-strike tennis when they square off tonight with a trip to the Nitto ATP Finals championship on the line.

More: Goffin To Face Federer 

Sock has won three of their four meetings, including fending off four match points in a pulsating 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7) victory at Indian Wells en route to his first Masters 1000 semifinal. That triumph came after Sock saved a match point in a 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-5 decision over Dimitrov at the 2015 Montreal Masters.

The ATP Finals debutants will both try to play declarative tennis in tonight’s semifinals with the winner advancing to the title match against either six-time champion Roger Federer or seventh-seeded David Goffin.

The first Bulgarian qualifier in the 48-year history of the Nitto ATP Finals has permitted just four games in his last two matches, including a brilliant 6-1, 6-1 thrashing of Pablo Carreno Busta last night.

Dimitrov won 19 of 20 first-serve points, converted five of 10 break points and absolutely annihilated the US Open semifinalist. He’ll need to serve with authority against Sock, a much more aggressive player than Carreno Busta.

“I don't think I'm going to be trying anything different, to be honest,” Dimitrov said. “I'm just going to focus on my side of the net, my game. Again, he has his game, I have my game. Simple as that. I don't think either one of us is going to try to do anything different in order to win.

“Obviously, the fight is going to be out there. But, yeah, I don't feel like I want to change anything in my game or try something new or different from what's working. Why change if things are going well for you?”

The explosive Sock is the first American semifinalist at the year-end event since fellow Nebraska native Andy Roddick a decade ago. Sock is bidding to become the first American finalist since James Blake fell to Federer in the 2006 Shanghai final.

Asked if he can take the title, Sock replied: “Why not?”

Next to Federer, who rides a 14-match winning streak into today’s first semifinal, Sock is the hottest player in the tournament.

The former Wimbledon doubles champion has won seven of his last eight matches with his lone loss coming to Federer in Sunday’s round-robin opener that featured one break of serve.

Sock has plenty of cause for optimism.

“I played Grigor a few times,” Sock said after his rousing 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 victory over Alexander Zverev on Thursday night. “He got me early on when we played. I've been able to get some wins against him.

"Obviously, I think he's a little bit different player since the last time I played him. I think he's really kind of found his game, what exactly he wants to do out there. It's showing throughout the year. He's playing deep into tournaments almost every week, really establishing himself in the top 10, maybe in top 5 now, I'm not sure.

“But once again, I'm playing with a lot of confidence as well coming off Paris, playing here, winning some of my matches, getting into the semis.”

Both men will try to dictate with their forehands, both are explosive players, excellent movers and dangerous striking on the run. The low-bouncing court is conducive to players who can alter spins and while Sock wielded the low slice effectively against the 6’6” Zverev, Dimitrov’s slice backhand is typically a more biting shot.

Look for Sock to bang his destructive diagonal forehand to Dimitrov’s one-handed backhand. The challenge for Dimitrov is this: Can he hit enough his backhand down the line effectively to exploit Sock’s preference for striking his forehand from the backhand corner?

The third-ranked Zverev, who possesses a tremendous two-handed backhand down the line, wasn’t able to strike that shot at critical times to trouble Sock.

Sock’s twisting topspin forehand is the biggest shot on the court. Dimitrov will need to use his versatility  and skill shifting spins and speeds to subdue that massive shot.

“He is not an ordinary player,” Dimitrov said of Sock. “He really uses his strengths very good. I think he obviously has improved a lot on his game, played pretty much throughout the whole year, very strong finish of the year, yeah, won a Masters. Obviously, he's riding on confidence right now… I think he just uses his strengths better than some other players.”


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