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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, November 14, 2017

 
Jack Sock

Jack Sock rallied from 0-3 down in the final set stopping Marin Cilic, 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (4) at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Photo credit: @ATP World Tour

LONDON—A jarring 4 a.m. fire alarm evacuation forced Jack Sock from his London hotel early this morning.

Confronting a third-set crisis on court this afternoon, Sock responded with his convulsive forehand and calm resolve.

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A gritty Sock stormed back from a love-3 third-set deficit squeezing past Marin Cilic, 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (4), keeping his World Tour Finals semifinal hopes alive.

The last man to qualify for the season-ending event was on his last legs in the decider.

Then Sock dug in and reeled off five consecutive points to close a two hour, 28-minute thriller and even his round-robin record in the Group Boris Becker at 1-1.

"I'm not the type of guy that will just enter a draw and be happy to make the third round or the quarters or whatever," said Sock, the first American man to win a match at the O2 Arena. "I'm here to win matches. Not only here, but all tournaments. I think if I do the right things and I play the right tennis, I can give myself a chance to play on the weekend of any tournament. I think I've showed that more this year.

"I'm 25 years old. I'm not the new kid on the block any more. It's kind of my time, the next however many years. Yeah, I'm just trying to do what I can."

The victory means second-ranked Roger Federer can clinch his 14th trip to the semifinals in 15 appearances at the season-ending event if he defeats third-ranked Alexander Zverev tonight.

If Federer prevails tonight, the eighth-seeded Sock can secure a semifinal spot by beating Zverev in his final round-robin match on Thursday.

It was another gut-wrenching loss for Cilic, who squandered a 3-1 third-set lead against Zverev bowing 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in his round-robin opener. The Wimbledon runner-up dropped to 1-7 lifetime at the World Tour Finals and 10-10 in decisive sets this season.

“Yeah, it is frustrating, absolutely,” Cilic said. “Also today, just beginning of the third set I played well. Also on my service game where I lost my serve, just missed couple of shots. I did good decisions. I just missed two forehands. He made one great passing shot off a run.”

Sock’s forehand is one of the most ferocious forehands in the game and he cranked 16 of his 33 winners off that wing today. On this day his wheels, will and touch helped him fight back from a 2-4 hole in the decisive tie break.

A streaking Sock skidded into a scooped backhand retrieval off a net-cord guiding a winner down the line for 4-all and did not drop a point the rest of the breaker.




The second round-robin match for each was a contrast of styles pitting Sock’s howitzer forehand against Cilic’s crackling two-handed backhand.

On the second point, Sock showed off that cannon-fire shot booming a leaping diagonal forehand with such force it actually evoked gasps in the crowd. The traded breaks to open then stayed on serve until the 11th game.




Sock showed fine feel lofting a backhand lob over the towering Wimbledon finalist for break point in the 11th game. Cilic’s shot collided with the tape and scooted over, a fortuitous bounce that denied break point as he held for 6-5.

Perhaps ruing opportunity lost, Sock dropped into a triple break point deficit. He fought off the first two, but flattened a forehand into the middle of the net on the third.

Cilic took a one-set lead after 51 minutes.

Sock took out his frustrations on the ball belting it high into the seats incurring a code violation for ball abuse from chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani, an entertaining and decisive presence, in the process.

"Souvenir for a fan way up there," Sock said. "(They) don't get to sit that close. They get to keep a ball now. It's kind of cool."

A recharged Sock broke to start the second set then broke again for 4-1.

Initially, it seemed Sock was playing the drop shot too often, particularly against a player who moves well for 6’6” and has an expansive reach. Sock stuck with it though and came up with some timely droppers, including a forehand drop shot that created set point in the second set.

Sliding his seventh ace out wide, Sock leveled the match after 96 minutes.

Deploying a favored Federer tactic, Cilic cut a short slice forcing Sock, who plays with an extreme western grip on his forehand, into scattering a crosscourt forehand wide breaking for a 2-0 third-set lead with a clenched fist toward coach Jonas Bjorkman. The fifth seed consolidated at love extending to 3-0.

In the fifth game, Sock’s scrambling—combined with Cilic’s skittishness—helped the American break back. Cilic missed a forehand sitter that would have given him 40-15. A floated forehand gave Sock a second break point and when the Croatian crashed a forehand down the line wide, Sock was back on serve, 2-3.

Cilic, who squandered a 3-1 third-set lead against Zverev on Sunday night, entered this decider with just a 52 percent winning percentage in final sets this season and was put to the test again.

The big man came up slightly short again.

Finding a fluid rhythm on serve, Cilic stamped three straight love holds for a 6-5 lead.

In the tie break, the 2014 US Open champion carved a drop volley for 3-2 then stretched his lead to 4-2 when Sock pushed a short forehand into net.

"As for the tiebreak, just hope he doesn't hit the net again," Sock said. "He had a few of those today, but that's tennis... But to keep myself right there like I did in the third set after being down a break, also in the tiebreaker, I can give myself a chance."

Net-cord bounces had gone Cilic’s way all day. Another net cord dropped over, but this time a streaking Sock skidded into a scooped backhand retrieval guiding a winner down the line for 4-all.

That shot revved up Sock and strained Cilic, who missed a two-hander wide on the next point. Sock buried a backhand down the line for double match point.

When Cilic sent a backhand long, Sock shot a fist toward his support box grabbing a gripping two hour, 28-minute victory.


 

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