Saturday, April 11, 2015

Jack Sock makes his comeback to tennis - and then some

The ATP World Tour has seen a number of impressive career comebacks over the last few years, and none has been as incredible as Brian Baker's. However, Jack Sock is putting together a comeback that just three tournaments in already rivals those of players like Rafael Nadal, Viktor Troicki, Tommy Haas, Marin Cilic, and Pablo Cuevas.

In those three tournaments, Jack Sock has gone 9-2 in singles and 9-1 in doubles, and will be at his career high ranking in both singles and doubles when the new rankings come out on Monday -- And he has done all this, while playing for his brother Eric Sock, who just had a miraculous recovery from illness as explained in Alison Kim's feature for the ATP website.

Sock was away from the tour with a torn muscle in his pelvis for four months, causing him to miss the Australian Open this year. The American didn't have much to defend in terms of ranking points during the four-month period, so his ranking only dropped 17 spots in singles, going from 41 to 58. Meanwhile, his doubles ranking took a slight dip from 13 to 16.

The No. 4 American (will be No. 3 on Monday if he loses tomorrow, No. 2 in he wins) made his comeback to the tour in March, playing at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. His results at Indian Wells didn't make it just a successful return, but also one of the best tournaments he has had in his career.

In singles, he reached the round of 16, coming through two very tight matches, winning third sets 7-5 and 7-6(7), before recording another three-set victory against No. 16 Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. His run was eventually ended by world No. 2 and eventual finalist Roger Federer, but that didn't end his time in Indian Wells with Sock still playing doubles with Vasek Pospisil.

The Canadian/American duo that won Wimbledon went on to win their third title as a pair that week. Sock and Pospisil won their first two rounds in straight sets, setting up a rematch of the Wimbledon final with the Bob and Mike Bryan, who Sock and Pospisil defeated 6-4, 6-4. They went on to win their first Masters title against Italian pairing of Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini, 6-4, 6-7(3), 10-7.

Sock's momentum rolled right into Miami, where he reached the final in doubles and third round in singles. In the doubles draw with Pospisil, he defeated the Italian pair again in the second round and in the final, met the Bryans again. The twins got their revenge this time, winning 6-3, 1-6, 10-8. Sock defeated Fognini in singles as well to reach the third round where he fell to Dominic Thiem.

At his third consecutive tournament in the comeback, Sock focused on just singles in Houston, since Pospisil didn't make the trip to the first clay event of the season. Sock entered the tournament with just seven career wins on clay at the tour level and no finals of any kind at the top tier of the game.

However, Sock reached his first tour-level final on any surface on the clay of Houston, defeating the No. 2, 5, and then 3 seeds to set up Sunday's final against Sam Querrey. Sock came back from down a set from his first round match against Joao Souza, making his fourth comeback from down a set in his return.

Then in the second round, he recorded his second win in three tournaments against Bautista Agut. He also beat No. 5 seed Santiago Giraldo by the same score, 6-4, 6-4 to set up a semifinal with Kevin Anderson. Sock blazed through the South African in two sets to reach the final, meaning his ranking will move up to around No. 41 in the world (depending on what happens in the finals in Houston as well as Casablanca) -- the same career-high ranking that he reached right before his comeback began.

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