Roger stretches to roll up Sock

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-14 07:30

 Roger stretches to roll up Sock

Roger Federer celebrates match point after beating Jack Sock in their ATP World Finals match at the O2 Arena in London on Sunday. [Photo/Agencies]

Federer pressured by feisty American in Finals opener

LONDON - Whatever else happens to Jack Sock at the ATP Finals this week, his between-the-legs volley at 4-4 in the second set of his debut match will be part of the tournament highlight reel.

Unfortunately for Sock, Roger Federer was on the other side of the net and the American upstart's magic moment proved in vain as the Swiss maestro spun a backhand winner past him.

Sock, the first American to qualify for the ATP Finals since 2011, felt Federer's winner owed a little to luck - not that the world No 2 needed much of that commodity to claim his 53rd career victory in the season-ender.

"It was a minor shank. That's just Roger. He can do no wrong. Everything goes in," said Sock, who pushed Federer hard in a 6-4, 7-6 (4) loss after dropping serve in the opening game.

It was a fairly accurate description of Federer's astonishing year in which, after a six-month layoff at the end of 2016, he returned to win the Australian Open and Wimbledon to reach 19 Grand Slam championships.

His seven titles so far this season is his most since winning eight in 2007, and few would bet against him matching that by capturing a first ATP Finals title since 2011.

Federer might have to find another gear on Tuesday, when he plays Alexander Zverev. The 20-year-old German sensation marked his ATP Finals debut with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 triumph over Marin Cilic in the day's other Boris Becker Group match.

Not everything Federer hit against Sock was superb.

The 36-year-old, who warmed up for London by donning a kilt in an exhibition match against Andy Murray on Tuesday, was not at his clinical best, even managing to net a close-range forehand when Sock had given up on the point by turning his back.

Two stunning backhands in the opening game of the match in a packed O2 Stadium earned Federer the only break in a match in which Sock and his atomic forehand was always a threat.

Federer, the oldest qualifier since 1970, looked aghast as two break points went begging at 3-3, then another two at 4-4.

Sock's stoic resistance earned him a tiebreak but, having drawn level at 4-4 he double-faulted and Federer closed it out.

"Not a whole lot to hang my head about," Sock said. "It was a couple of points."

Federer, who has six Finals crowns, won 29 of 32 service points in the second set but said it was a tough opener.

"I had a tactical plan, but very often in a first match like this it gets thrown overboard and you're just happy to be serving well," he said.

Sock is one of four first-time qualifiers here, having crept through the back door by winning the Paris Masters.

Zverev arrived through the front door by winning five titles this year - and he immediately looked at home on the big stage.

The world No 3 started quickly, emulating Federer's earlier feat by breaking immediately with a delicate drop-volley off a dipping return.

But after taking the opening set Zverev lost his way, and Cilic bossed the second set.

Cilic led 3-1 in the third and was close to a double break only for Zverev to reload, breaking in the sixth game with an exquisite lob even the 6-foot-6 Croat could not reach.

He then broke to love to claim victory.

Nadal ready

With defending champion Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka all absent from the Tour Finals due to injury, Federer and Rafael Nadal are the unquestioned headline acts.

Having won the French and US Opens this year, Nadal has matched Federer's unexpectedly dominant run as the old rivals hoovered up all four of this year's Grand Slam crowns.

Nadal is already guaranteed to finish as the year-end world No 1 for the first time since 2013, making the 31-year-old Spaniard the oldest man to earn that honor.

But his hopes of winning the Tour Finals for the first time could be hampered by injury.

Nadal, twice a Tour Finals runner-up, was due to open his campaign against David Goffin on Monday, but said he is still struggling with the knee problem that forced him to pull out of the recent Paris Masters.

Speaking to the crowd after being presented with his year-end No 1 trophy on court following the Federer-Sock match, Nadal said he was ready to give it a go against Goffin.

"It has been a fantastic season ... and a very emotional one after all of the things I have been going through in the past couple of years with injury, he said.

"See you tomorrow on court."


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