Team World closes the gap with doubles win
Some people approach a birthday with an unmistakable sense of celebration. Others are more cerebral as they contemplate the passing of time.
For Jack Sock – who turns 25 today – combined superbly with John Isner to defeat Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic 7-6(5) 7-6(6) in doubles. The steely win provided Team World with a critical three points at the Laver Cup.
Earlier, the American had noted a deadline of sorts after a narrow loss to Rafael Nadal.
“You know, my clock is ticking,” said Sock. “I’ve (only) got so many years left on tour. I go into these matches expecting to win.”
It followed that Sock, seven years junior to his 32-year-old partner Isner, would deliver an explosive start against Europe.
Cilic held serve to open, but a cracking early forehand winner from Sock indicated the weapon that would prove most to his team’s advantage.
The forehand – combined with the serve that was impenetrable for much of the match – helped when Cilic and Berdych held two break points against Isner’s serve in a seven-and-a-half minute seventh game.
And it helped again when Team World was able to wrestle the 54-minute first set in a tiebreak.
Sock’s sprint to the sidelines – where Nick Kyrgios was waiting with some spirited congratulations – showed that he still possessed all the exuberance of youth.
In a clinical start to the second set, Sock and Isner claimed every point of the first three games. It took the sensible Cilic to finally steady for Team Europe in the fourth game.
But maturity was the key when momentum suddenly shifted for Sock and the potential outcome for Team World. Serving at 4-2 and with a 40-15 lead, several errors proved costly as their opponents claimed the break back.
Games stayed on serve and despite Team World holding break points against Cilic, another tiebreak ensued.
There, Sock showed all the skill that made him a Wimbledon doubles champion with Vasek Pospisil and a dual Olympic medallist at Rio (gold in mixed doubles and bronze in men’s doubles).
Critical winners came from Sock’s forehand; Isner provided valuable back up on serve ad at the net.
Team Europe held a set point but perhaps feeling the pressure, a Cilic error negated it and the confident Team World duo secured the win in just two minutes under two hours.
“Obviously you guys could see I was pretty fired up out there,” said Sock. “I thought we played some great tennis. Those guys played well. (It) could have gone either way there in the end.”
It was the best way for Sock to complete his sturdy workload in Prague, where he has featured in each of Team World’s three doubles matches.
Combining with Kyrgios to defeat Berdych and Nadal on day one, Sock also combined with Sam Querrey in a loss to Nadal and Roger Federer on Saturday night.
“I didn’t come in and say I expect to play all the doubles matches. It was a team vote,” said Sock.
“Obviously I feel very comfortable on a doubles court. I have a good history … and I trust myself out there playing with any of the guys on the team.
“At the end of the day, it was the team’s trust and support in me to help me get out there and, you know, get the energy up. Yeah, even with the loss yesterday, I thought I played some great doubles this weekend and helped out the team.
“But overall, it’s a group effort and just happy to be out there and be a part of it.”