By Ros Satar at the O2, London
- Jack Sock  def. Alexander Zverev  6-4 1-6 6-4
- Roger Federer  def. Marin Cilic  6-7(5) 6-4 6-1
LONDON, UK – Tail-end Charlie Jack Sock stunned the World No. 3 Alexander Zverev to grab the second semi-final spot behind Roger Federer.
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Jack Sock  def. Alexander Zverev  6-4 1-6 6-4
We might not be quite a a full changing of the guard yet, with the ‘old guard’ still hanging in there for a little while longer, but we saw a glimpse of what we have to look forward to as Alexander Zverev and Jack Sock engaged in a battle of the newbies.
There were undoubtedly a few jitters on either side of the net. With breakpoints building up on both side, Sock earned himself an early code violation in just the second game by belting a ball up into the stands, while Zverev just seemed to be in a permanently gripey mood with the umpire.
Sock got the upper-hand following a delightful passing shot to build up a break point after Zverev had started to move reluctantly from the base line coming in a bit more. Zverev had a lucky escape – Sock fielding a set point, after which the American opted for soft punting back and forth over the net as Zverev kept one foot in the set. Not for long though as Sock made good on his second set point.
It was, however a pretty spectacular lapse of momentum from Sock and likewise a surge from from Zverev as he swiftly reeled off 5 games on the bounce in just 20 minutes. Sock saved his blushes at least by getting a game on the board but it was hardly the start of an epic comeback – perhaps more an acceptance that the real effort would have to come in the decider.
Zverev kept his foot on the gas to break Sock in the opening game, earning himself a point penalty this time for hoofing a ball into the crowd. It was vital that Sock got himself together, replying the perfect way with an immediate break back.
Zverev was the first to blink – a double-fault handing the advantage to Sock now, as he piled on the pressure for a 4-1 lead and it looked like things were going the American’s way.
But we were not done with a twist still to come as the German crept back into contention with a break back, echoing his fight back in his opening round against Marin Cilic. Sock was ahead on serve with Zverev to serve to stay in the tournament.
With a double fault handing Sock match point all it took was a zverev hook wide to hand Jack Sock his place in the semi-final.
With all the probable expectation and disappointment, Zverev was predictably downbeat as he assessed his performance.
“I choked. It’s quite easy. Won the second set 6-1. I was 1-0 with a break. He got a point penalty. I was down 1-4 within 10 minutes where I didn’t put many balls in the court. When I got back at 4-5, that’s one of the worst games I think I played all year.”
“It’s been an awesome year. Still, the end of the year was absolute crap for me. If I would have played the whole year like I did, by the end of the year I don’t think I would have finished top 50. Yeah, that’s a bit unfortunate for me. But that’s okay. I’m going to go on holidays now. I’m definitely going to enjoy that. Then I’m going to work hard in the off-season.”
Sock is just rolling with the punches just now. In terms of his own trajectory this year, he started well, tailed off a little before finishing on a hot streak, so he had some thoughts on how perhaps Zverev had been affected.
He said: “I didn’t expect to be in London in the first place. To be here was a good achievement given the way my second half of the year was going. Paris was a big step for me. Now to put myself in the position to play on the weekend is another big step forward, another confidence booster.”
Despite an awkward moment when Zverev was on his way back from doing German press just as a question was being asked about his assessment of what happened in the final set, Sock put it into perspective.
He continued: “The guy is 20 years old. He’s played some absolutely outstanding tennis in his career. I mean, can’t even legally drink a beer in the U.S. and he’s 3 in the world, playing like he is. It could be nerves. You never know. It could be the expectations for him, as well. Obviously with the tennis he’s played, not only this year, but the start of his career, he could go out there and expect himself to play a certain way.”
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Federer finds his way past Cilic to exit Group stage unbeaten
Cilic perhaps went some small way to bury the memories of a tearful Wimbledon exit when he faced Roger Federer for the final group stage match in Group Boris Becker.
Cilic, who has a woeful record at the O2, having only won once (in 2016) coming into this match was not going to be a pushover for Roger Federer, who qualified for the semi-finals following his defeat over Zverev.
Federer had three chances to break the Croatian in the opening game but the hold seemed to give Cilic a little boost as Federer would not get another sniff of a break point until the ninth game, again with the 2014 US Open champion holding firm, taking the first set tie-break.
The fire seemed to go out of the crowd a little. Federer was not really giving them much to work on in terms of making more of an impact on Cilic’s game
The second set just saw a one break point each, and no yards given by either as Federer trudged around the court, until he posed the serve-it-out question with a 5-4 lead. There the Croatian wobbled, just needing the one break point in that game to break for the set.
Just as quickly – it was as if Federer had a reservation for a cheeky Nandos with the kids and the missus. The nerves that seemed to afflict Cilic at the end of the second set prevailed as Federer swiftly costed to a 3-0 lead.
The end came swiftly for Cilic from that point, saving a little face with a single game on the board, adding to Cilic’s woes losing seven of the last eight games to end up winless once more in London.
Federer said: “It wasn’t easy. I mean, look, it’s a fast court. It’s indoors. We’ve seen it now: when you miss a few too many opportunities, you can really pay the price at this tournament. So we’ve seen some swing of momentums in a lot of the matches this week.
“Definitely was dangerous there for a while, you know, being down a set and breakpoints beginning of the second set.”
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