Jack Sock bounces back with defeat of Marin Cilic at ATP Finals

Simon Briggs
The Telegraph
Jack Sock ended the day a happy man after beating Marin Cilic at the ATP Finals - Getty Images Europe
Jack Sock ended the day a happy man after beating Marin Cilic at the ATP Finals - Getty Images Europe

Jack Sock’s day began earlier than he had expected, and chillier too, after a fire alarm went off in the players’ hotel near Waterloo, London. “It was miserable,” Sock confessed, after huddling with other guests – including Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem – outside the building at 4am. “Some managed to put on more clothes than others,” he added.

Yet the day would look up for Sock, who resembles his close friend Nick Kyrgios in the way he meets all life’s eventualities with a carefree shrug. By 4.30pm, he was £145,000 richer – a sum which would cover several thermal vests – after beating Marin Cilic in the ­afternoon session here.

In all probability, Sock did not pack a big suitcase when he popped over to Europe just over a fortnight ago to play the Paris Masters. He already had his plans for this week mapped out, and they involved a golfing trip to the relatively balmy climes of Augusta with fellow American tennis star John Isner.

But at a Parisian event that featured not one fully-fit member of the so-called “Big Five”, Sock nipped in to claim what was comfortably the biggest title of his life, and thus earn the eighth and final invite to the Nitto ATP Finals. He pipped Pablo Carreno Busta – who will still come into the tournament now Nadal has withdrawn with knee trouble – by a mere 150 ranking points.

While it was a wrench to give up the Augusta trip, Sock will probably receive another invite (the woman Isner is about to marry – Madison McKinley – is the daughter of a club member). In the meantime, he has just ended a lengthy American drought at the Nitto ATP Finals. With his 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 comeback win over Cilic, he became the first player from his country to win a match at this tournament since his mentor Andy Roddick in 2007. Back then, it was called the Tennis Masters Cup and staged in Shanghai. Not that any of this information interested Sock one iota. “I really don’t care about that stuff,” he said. “The first American to do this since whenever. I like to go out, have fun, compete. The stats and all that are what they are.”

Sock, 25, was behind for most of Tuesday’s match, losing the first set and then coming back from a break down in the decider. He gave up a 4-2 lead in the tie-break too, but turned the tables with an extraordinary retrieval shot after a Cilic backhand hit the net-cord and dropped gently over the other side. Sock’s big asset is the blunderbuss forehand that carries more topspin than any other groundstroke in the game. He is not renowned for supreme fitness nor lightning speed, yet he got his legs pumping and dug out that low ball so neatly that it dropped into the corner of the court, out of Cilic’s reach. It was an example of the unexpected touch he used to lift the Wimbledon men’s doubles title in 2014, alongside Canadian partner Vasek Pospisil.

“That was a big shot to hit at that stage,” sighed Cilic, this year’s Wimbledon finalist, who will now need to beat Roger Federer ­on Thursday to give himself even an outside chance of reaching the semi-finals.

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