Jack Sock shook off a point penalty for ball abuse early in the opening game of the third set by reeling off four straight games and eventually stun favorite Alexander Zverev 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.
Sock’s win eliminates Zverev from the competition and puts the American in the semifinals in his debut at the ATP Finals.
“I choked. It’s quite easy. Won the second set 6-1. I was 1-0 with a break. He got a point penalty. I was down 1-4 within 10 minutes where I didn’t put many balls in the court,” Zverev said. “So, yeah, I just choked.”
After dropping a tight first set, Zverev found the range on the backhand and ran away with the second. Then he immediately broke Sock to open the third. But following the break, Sock smacked a ball out of the court, his second such instance of the match, drawing a point penalty.
That proved the turning point, oddly not for Zverev, but for Sock who seized the momentum as Zverev unravelled.
Sock, who was ranked No. 24 just a few weeks ago before claiming the final berth on the final day by winning Paris, will now face Grigor Dimitrov after a day off on Friday. He’s won seven of his last eight matches.
“I’m playing with house money. I’m going out there and letting loose, having fun, trying to put on a show a little bit, just enjoy my time,” Sock said.
In the early match, Roger Federer maintained his dominance over Marin Cilic with a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1 win to improve to 8-1 against the Croat.
“It wasn’t easy. I mean, look, it’s a fast court. It’s indoors. We’ve seen it now: when you miss a few too many opportunities, you can really pay the price at this tournament. So we’ve seen some swings of momentum in a lot of the matches this week,” Federer said.
“I think in the beginning I was slightly overaggressive in the first set on some crucial points rather than maybe being patient. I was able to turn that around late in the second set. Then just had a much better feeling in the third set.
“Maybe also Marin’s level dropped, I’m not sure. But definitely was dangerous there for a while.”
Federer had already clinched the top seed in the Boris Becker. Meanwhile, Cilic slumped to 1-8 career at the ATP Finals event, going 0-3 this year.
“Even though it’s three losses, I felt that my tennis wasn’t too far off of playing really, really well. Good positives at least in that. Hopefully I’m going to recover good and start a new season on a good level,” Cilic said.
Federer will have a day of rest Friday before returning on Saturday in the semifinals to face either David Goffin or Dominic Thiem.
Tomorrow, Thiem and Goffin will battle for the final semifinal berth. Goffin leads 6-3 but the Belgian has to worry about burnout ahead of a Davis Cup finals tilt next weekend in France.
“I know him really well,” Goffin said. “I practice really often with Dominic. Yeah, I have already an idea with the tactics against him because I played so many times against him. We played a lot of good matches against each other.
“It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to watch his match first tonight.”
Added Thiem on the matchup, “We had some big, important matches in the past. Also in the deep rounds of slams. This one’s going to be another one. We know each other very well. He played a very good match here, one very bad match. I don’t know what to expect. I’m hoping that it’s going to be a tough match, and I’m trying everything to go through to the semis.
“He’s taking the balls very early. He’s giving me not much time. Especially on this little bit faster surface, it’s tough for me. Yeah, so I try to be the first to hurt him and not the other way around.”
The last match of the round robin pits the undefeated Grigor Dimitrov against alternate Pablo Carreno Busta. The Spaniard beat Dimitrov at the French Open this year. Dimitrov has already won the group and will meet Sock on Saturday.
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