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SOCK AND HAAS INTO SECOND ROUND
[column size=”00-1″ last=”1″ style=”1″]Young American Sock, German Veteran Highlight Tuesday Afternoon Play
by Steve Dorsey
Andy Roddick has retired, and many are wondering if Jack Sock could be the future face of American tennis. That question was posed to Sock following his first-round straight-sets victory Tuesday afternoon at the ATP World Tour’s Delray Beach ITC.
“I get asked that question a lot and I give the same answer every time,” said the 20-year-old Sock, who advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Australian Matthew Ebden. “Yeah, I’m a young American coming up, but there’s a bunch of others around my age. We’re all trying to do our best to get American tennis back on the map and back to the top.”
Sock’s stock jumped last week in Memphis after he upset Milos Raonic, who is ranked No. 18 in the world and was the No. 2 seed. Sock, who lost in the singles quarterfinals but made it to the finals in doubles at Memphis, arrived in Delray Beach with a career-best ATP ranking of 130 and was awarded a wild card spot in the ITC main draw. He appears to be taking the attention he’s receiving now in stride despite his youth.
“For me, I don’t really think about it that much,” Sock said of the expectations heaped upon him as a potential rising star on the American tennis scene. “I just kind of go about my business and do my own personal stuff. I mean, we’re all friends and we all push each other, and we all want to see each other do well. I hope all of us can make it to the top. I don’t let it be a distraction. It is what it is.”
Sock, who lost in the qualifying rounds his two previous visits to Delray Beach, next faces Ricardas Berankis, the No. 1 seed in the qualifying draw who lost in the final round of qualifying on Monday but gained entry into the main draw when Feliciano Lopez withdrew from the tournament.
“I did really well last week in Memphis and I felt pretty confident coming into this week,” Sock said. “It was my first singles match win of the year (in Memphis). It was a big help to my confidence. To beat a guy like Milos indoors there where he’s had success kind of makes you think you can beat a lot of guys on any day. I just want to back up a good week.”
In other first-round action Tuesday afternoon, No. 2 seed Tommy Haas moved on to the second round under what he described as a “really strange match.” Haas, the No. 19-ranked player in the world, lost the first set to Igor Sijsling 7-5, and the second set was 4-all when Sijsling twisted his left ankle in the ninth game and required about 10 minutes of attention from a trainer. When the match resumed, Haas won the next two games to take the set 6-4, after which an obviously frustrated Sijsling, who hit three balls into the stands and out of the stadium, retired.
“I think he probably thought, maybe if I break here I can hold my serve and be off the court,” Haas said of Sijsling’s decision to finish the second set. “He looked like he was in some serious pain. I got lucky there. He was so close to beating me. I can understand (his frustration). He’s playing some really good tennis, and he’s very dangerous and will be in the future. It was a weird ending, sort of like one I won’t forget for the rest of my career, that’s for sure.”
Ernests Gulbis, who registered his first career ATP World Tour singles title in Delray Beach in 2010, also advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 win against wild card entry James Blake. Gulbis, 24, finished outside the ATP top 100 rankings last year for the first time since 2006. He arrived at the Delray Beach ITC with a No. 109 ranking and had to win three qualifying matches to earn a spot in the main draw. Gulbis next faces No. 3 seed Sam Querrey in the second round.
The other first-round singles winners Tuesday afternoon were Daniel Munoz de la Nava, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Denis Istomin, Yen-Hsun Lu and lucky loser Berankis. The top-seeded doubles team of Max Mirnyi and Horia Tecau breezed to a straight-sets win in their first-round match.
Tuesday’s evening matches will feature No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori against Ivo Karlovic, followed by the nightcap match between No. 1 seed John Isner and Jesse Levine.