Paris | Sock sneaks into London
The line-up for next week’s ATP Tour Finals is now complete as Jack Sock hammered his way to the Paris Masters title to leapfrog from 24th in the Race to London table last Monday, to eighth and dislodge Pablo Carreno Busta from making his debut at the O2.
Sock, who hadn’t realised he was in the running for that final spot until Sky’s Marcus Buckland pointed it out to him during the week, eventually overpowered his opponent Filip Krajinovic, the Serbian qualifier 5-7 6-4 6-1 to claim the Bercy title, the first American to do so since Andre Agassi in 1999.
I obviously snuck into the eighth spot in London unexpectedly, so zero pressure on me to go there. I'm going to swing big and play my game like I always do, and just, honestly, enjoy the moment. Jack Sock
Seeded 16, the result has not only lifted him to the top of the US rankings but projected him into the world’s top ten at nine thereby giving the sport in that country a huge fillip as he became the first American to have won a Masters event in seven years, (Andy Roddick, Miami 2010) and the first US National to make the Masters finals since Mardy Fish (2011).
The 25-year-old from Kansas City, who had a first round bye, faced certain defeat in the second round as he trailed Kyle Edmund 1-5 in the deciding set but after receiving treatment on his back, reeled off five games in a row winning 20 out of 26 points to go through 4-6 7-6(3) 7-6(5) to launch his remarkable run to the title, the third and biggest win of his career.
“Coming in this week I had no idea I could even make London,” the new Masters champion said. “It wasn’t in my head. I just wanted to play some good tennis my last week and go start my off-season.
“Now to sit here and extend the season another two weeks, and to keep playing and achieve a lot of firsts today for me, is incredible.
“I was thinking about my holidays the next day (when a double-break down to Edmund). I tried to start shortening points and just going after my shots. They were landing and I was connecting a lot of them.”
Sock said he would have nothing to lose when he arrives in London to take on the likes of Rafael Nadal ( who is doubtful following his withdrawal half way through Paris) and Roger Federer.
“I obviously snuck into the eighth spot in London unexpectedly, so zero pressure on me to go there,” he added. “I’m going to swing big and play my game like I always do, and just, honestly, enjoy the moment.”
Meanwhile Krajinevic, his defeated opponent, shouldn’t be overlooked. The Serb, also 25, has made a huge impact in Paris, not only by qualifying and running through his side of the field – helped by Rafa Nadal handing him a quarter-final walk-over – in what was his first ATP Tour event of the year. All his five titles this season had come at second-tier Challenger level following surgery to his right wrist to remove an extra bone.
He played some excellent tennis throughout the week and in the final itself, looked set to go all the way when he took the opening – albeit tight – set.
Sock won his first two service games to love but ran into a spot of bother in the sixth game. He served and volleyed to save a break point but then a double fault handed Krajinovic a break and a 4-2 lead.
The American broke straight back but a fine forehand earned the Serb a set point and Sock produced another forehand error as his opponent, who defended well, took the lead.
But in the opening moments of the second he lost his focus and handed the initiative to Sock who romped into a 4-1 lead. He could only break back once, Sock levelling for one-set all and kept up the pressure in the decider where Krajinevic just ran out of steam and not surprisingly, considering he was playing his ninth match of the week!
“I’m disappointed a little bit. I lost energy, I lost a physical moment in the match. First game of the second set I shouldn’t lose that easy,” Krajinovic admitted. “Then he started to play better and better and I didn’t serve well today.”
His reward is to rise from 77 in the rankings to 33 and slip behind Novak Djokovic to second in the Serbian rankings!
“Pressure is part of the sport. Everybody has pressure in life. Of course, I am going to have more,” he added. “People will expect more from me right now. They see I can do it. But if I want to be better, I have to handle that. So I will work on that also.
“I had to play Challengers because I didn’t have a ranking. But now I will practice with those (top) guys and play with those guys and I think I can be dangerous.”