London Calling? Sock One Match From Finals Berth
Just two tournaments ago, Jack Sock brought a five-match losing streak to an end. When he arrived in Paris, the American was No. 24 in the Emirates ATP Race To London. So when the 25-year-old trailed Kyle Edmund 1-5 in the third set of his opening match at the Rolex Paris Masters, it looked like his season would come to a disappointing end.
Sock could not have imagined that just three days later he would defeat wild card Julien Benneteau, 7-5, 6-2, to advance to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final.
"I was able to go out today and play my game, swing big, kind of like I always do, and play some good tennis and get through," Sock said. "Tomorrow is just a good opportunity for me to go out and try to compartmentalize all the things that would come with winning tomorrow and just go out and play my tennis again."
And perhaps more importantly, Sock is just a win over qualifier Filip Krajinovic away from qualifying for his first Nitto ATP Finals in what would be the most unlikely year-end finale qualification ever.
Yet here the right-hander is, two sets away from earning the eighth and final spot at The O2 in London from 12-19 November. If he defeats the Serbian on Sunday, Sock will soar 15 spots in the Race and past Pablo Carreno Busta, who will clinch a spot in his first Nitto ATP Finals if the American loses.
"I had no idea I could still make London even if I was to win the tournament. I didn't know if I was going to be even close. I had a good start to the year and a very bad middle and towards the end of the year. To be able to regroup and get that confidence back and play some of the tennis I've been able to play in the last few matches is big for me," Sock said. "I should have been out first round here, in my first match, so I'm kind of just playing with house money now as you'd say. And just enjoying it."
If Sock finishes his incredible week off with a title, he will also rise into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time, which would once again make him the top-ranked American. Andy Roddick was the last man from the United States to raise a Masters 1000 trophy, in Miami seven years ago, and Andre Agassi was the last American to win the title in Paris, in 1999.
The 16th seed did not get through his semi-final without having to battle, though. Benneteau, who posted back-to-back Top 10 wins in the same tournament for the first time in his career at the age of 35, retrieved a break of serve in the first set on two separate occasions. But Sock used his superior speed and athleticism throughout the match to stay in points that the Frenchman controlled, eventually jumping to the offensive with his thunderous forehand.
In the second set, it appeared that Benneteau's energy reserves may have finally run out, double-faulting both breaks of serves away, while Sock did not lose a point on serve in the set.
Sock and Krajinovic have never met in an ATP World Tour event. Their only previous match came in 2014 at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Savannah — Sock won in three sets.
It was the end of a dream run for the home favourite, Benneteau, who advanced to just his second Masters 1000 semi-final in his final Rolex Paris Masters appearance.
"What I'm most proud of is that I was able to play four matches in a row at a very high level," Benneteau said. "The first match was extremely good. I was able to continue to beat Jo-Wilfried [Tsonga], [David] Goffin, and [Marin] Cilic one after the other. And it's great to have been able to do that here in Paris."