Sock Unseats Defending Champion Albot In Delray Beach
Good things come to those who wait. For Jack Sock, the wait to see his best tennis resurface is finally over.
The American earned his second ATP Tour singles victory since November 2018, erasing a match point to defeat eighth seed and defending champion Radu Albot 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) on Tuesday at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com. An emotional Sock saved a match point on his serve at 5-6 in the final set, then crouched down and fought back tears after the Moldovan hit a backhand into the net after two hours and 16 minutes.
”It’s been a tough couple of years, especially last year with not even playing that much. I was pretty close to not playing the sport anymore, so it means a lot,” Sock said. “Without the people in my corner, I probably wouldn’t be here. Thanks to them for keeping my belief up, my positivity up, because I didn’t have a whole lot there for awhile.”
Sock reached a career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 8 in November 2017, fueled by his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Paris and a semi-final finish at the Nitto ATP Finals. But just as Sock was coming into his peak, he endured a frustrating stretch of results and injuries over the next two years.
A lingering hip injury troubled Sock throughout most of the 2018 season and contributed to his ranking falling outside the Top 100. A thumb injury sustained during last year's Australian Open required surgery to repair two torn ligaments and caused him to miss six months. Sock returned last July and defeated Fabio Fognini two months later at the Laver Cup, but struggled to stay healthy and retired in his last two matches of the year.
”He’s a good friend. I’ve known him for a long time and we know each other like the back of our hands,” Sock said. “I’ll have a game plan and I’ll try to go out and execute it, but I think I can play free now that I have a win finally.”
Milos Raonic extended his unbeaten ATP Head2Head record against Denis Istomin, defeating the 33-year-old 6-2, 6-2. The second seed dropped just one point behind his first serve (21/22) and broke serve on four occasions to advance in 65 minutes. Australian Open quarter-finalist Raonic has won each of his five encounters against Istomin in straight sets.
”I had a little bit of a scare early and got out of trouble, but I played solid the rest of the way through and there are a lot of positives to take,” Raonic said. “People here are very excited about tennis and there’s a lot of Canadians, so that makes it more fun.”
With his fifth win of the 2020 ATP Tour season, Raonic improves to 6-1 at this event. In 2017, the Canadian beat Kyle Edmund and Juan Martin del Potro in back-to-back matches to advance to the championship match on his tournament debut.
Fourth-seeded American Reilly Opelka overcame a stern test to outlast Latvian Ernests Gulbis 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(4). Opelka hammered 20 aces and won 88 per cent (57/65) of his first-serve points to prevail after two hours and 40 minutes. He scored his first Top 10 win at this event two years ago, beating Jack Sock en route to a quarter-final finish.
"Ernests is a tough competitor. He’s playing well and he’s had a good start to the year. I just mentally competed really hard and was able to get the win,” Opelka said. “I think I play more tie-breakers than the average tennis player, so having a plan for each one is important to me."
Cameron Norrie withstood 13 aces to beat third seed Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-4. The British qualifier, making his second appearance at the ATP 250 event, will meet American wildcard Brandon Nakashima for a quarter-final spot. Nakashima claimed his maiden ATP Tour victory on Monday, beating recent Pune champion Jiri Vesely 7-6(4), 6-1.
Auckland champion Ugo Humbert also advanced to the second round, rallying from a set down to beat lucky loser Stefan Kozlov 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1. Humbert served 12 aces and converted seven of 11 break points throughout the two-hour, 26-minute encounter.
Noah Rubin picked up his first tour-level win in two years when Jason Jung of Chinese Taipei was forced to retire with the American leading 6-3, 4-3. The 23-year-old Rubin will face Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka in the next round.