Sock Hoping For Fresh Start To 2018 In Delray Beach
Sock headed to Auckland still feeling tired from his unpredictable end to 2017. The 25-year-old won the Rolex Paris Masters title and climbed 16 places in the ATP Race To London – from 24th to eighth – to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in London for the first time.
But the later end to his season – late November instead of early October/early November – threw off Sock's schedule. He flew to New Zealand without his usual off-season training, and it showed on the court. Sock won just one set during his two matches at the ASB Classic and the Australian Open.
“I went down to Australia with not as much confidence in my physical part. The year prior I ended with a month and a half training straight, felt really strong and mentally fresh. This year was kind of the opposite. Didn’t feel as great physically. Mentally, I was still a little tired,” Sock said. “No excuses at all for my part, just a different feel.”
After his trip Down Under, however, Sock trained for a month straight and is feeling fit to defend his Delray Beach Open title this week.
“I look different. I feel different in my head. I’m excited to get my season started now and leave January behind me,” Sock said.
The lessons learned are to be expected for Sock, who spent much of last season in new territory. The No. 1 American had the best season of his career, winning three titles – Auckland, Delray Beach and Paris. Before 2017, he had captured only one ATP World Tour crown – 2015 Houston.
He also posted his best performance at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments, making the BNP Paribas semi-finals in March (l. Federer) before winning Paris in November (d. Krajinovic). Sock cracked the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings as well.
“It was a blessing to play London and to have won Paris,” he said.
But the whirlwind year has also changed how Sock and his team look at his schedule. In 2017, the right-hander played Top 5 tennis in the beginning and end of the year. But he struggled in the middle, going 8-11 from May to mid-October. Fatigue was partly to blame, said Mike Wolf, who's been a part of Sock's coaching team since he was 10.
From late March to early May, Sock flew from Miami to Australia (Davis Cup) to Houston and then to Europe for the clay-court swing. It was all maybe too much for the American, who had finished 2016 playing 33 matches in 33 days.
“He just wasn't in a good place because he played a ton of tennis at the end of  and worked really hard in the off-season,” Wolf told ATPWorldTour.com. “You just cannot be at tournaments or be at the practice courts and not be ready to give your full effort.”
This season, Wolf and Sock's team have already adjusted the American's schedule to avoid a prolonged dip. Sock, a Davis Cup regular, skipped the U.S.' first-round match against Serbia earlier this month.
“I know it’s going to be a long year. Starting in Delray I have a seven-week trip coming up... I need to pick and choose the right time to play based on my mental state, my physical state,” Sock said.
The World No. 8 is the top seed in a stacked Delray Beach Open draw, which features five former champions: Sock, Juan Martin del Potro (2011), Kevin Anderson (2012), Sam Querrey (2016) and Ivo Karlovic (2015). Sock received a walkover during last year's final against Milos Raonic, who's also seeded this week.
But the past is the past to Sock, who's feeling better than he has in months, and is hoping that shows on the court this week. “[I] hope I can play and the way I want to play, starting in Delray and the for the rest of the year and leave January behind me,” he said.