18 Feb Emotional Sock Scores Win
2017 Champ Saves Match Point Tuesday Night
By STEVE DORSEY
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Jack Sock could not contain his emotions, dropping to his knees, his head in his hands. After a few moments, he stood up, wiped away a tear and walked to the net to shake hands with Radu Albot. And the fans in the packed stands at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center loudly applauded their appreciation.
Sock had just saved a match point deep in the third set of his victory over defending Delray Beach Open champion Albot 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), registering the most emotional first-round victory of his nine-year professional career.
“I’m not much of a crier,” Sock told the crowd in an on-court post-match interview, acknowledging that it’s been a tough road from “top of the world for me in my career to rock-bottom tennis-wise.”
Sock was ranked No. 8 in the world a little more than two years ago. Last February, though, he had surgery to repair a broken thumb, essentially putting tennis on hold for the entire year. By November he had dropped completely out of the ATP World Tour rankings. His last ATP Tour win was in October of 2018 before he beat Albot in highly competitive match that lasted 2 hours, 15 minutes on Tuesday.
“Man, I don’t think I would be this emotional winning Wimbledon,” Sock said. “It’s been a tough couple of years, especially last year, basically not playing the sport anymore.”
Sock, who had a 9-22 match record in 2018 before sustaining the thumb injury that sent his ranking spiraling downward further, needed every ounce of energy to take down Albot, who arrived here ranked No. 51 in the world and is the second consecutive defending Delray Beach Open champion to lose in the first round. Sock’s win sparked memories of his 2017 tournament here when he hoisted the championship trophy, one of three titles he won that year.
“I haven’t won a match since Paris (2018), so it’s been a while. Hopefully, this carries into something,” said Sock, who credited the enthusiastic support he received from the fans as a “massive factor in pulling out a victory.”
Sock delivered seven aces, including three in the decisive third set, and had only four double faults against Albot.
On deck for Sock is fellow American Steve Johnson, who advanced to the second round earlier in the day with a straight-sets win against Henri Laaksonen.
“We know each other like the back of our hands,” Sock said of Johnson. “I’ve trained two months to get ready for this, but I haven’t played in humidity like this in a while. Hopefully I can get ready for Thursday and play well. . . . Honestly, I can play free now that I’ve got a win in front of me.”
Tommy Paul continued Americans’ successful first-round run here when he defeated lucky loser Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia 6-2, 6-4 in Tuesday’s nightcap match. Galan replaced Aussie and No. 1 seed Nick Kyrgios, who had to withdraw from the tournament Tuesday afternoon because of a wrist injury. Paul’s second-round opponent will be 2018 Delray Beach Open champ Frances Tiafoe.
Sock and Paul are nine of the 11 Americans here this week who won their first-round matches, the most to advance to the second round since the inaugural tournament in 1993.