World Tour Finals preview and prediction: Federer vs. Sock

Roger Federer and Jack Sock will be going head-to-head for the fourth time in their careers when they clash in the opening singles match of the World Tour Finals on Sunday afternoon.

Federer has won all three of their previous meetings and has never surrendered a single set to Sock. The Swiss prevailed twice in 2015 (6-3, 6-2 in Indian Wells and 6-3, 6-4 in Basel) before getting the job done 6-1, 7-6(4) in the Indian Wells semifinals earlier this season.

Sock figured he would be on vacation right now instead of getting another shot at the 19-time Grand Slam champion, but what a difference one week makes. Although the 25-year-old American was not even in the realistic year-end championship picture heading into the Paris Masters, he rolled all the way to his first Masters 1000 title and stole the final qualifying spot from–among others–Pablo Carreno Busta. Sock’s trip to the trophy included victories over Kyle Edmund (from 5-1 down in the third set), Lucas Pouille, Fernando Verdasco, Julien Benneteau, and Filip Krajinovic.

To say Sock’s title came out of nowhere would be a gross understatement. The current world No. 9 was a horrendous 13-16 in his last 29 matches prior to arriving in Paris. By comparison, he was 18-3 in his first 21 matches of the season.

Federer, on the other hand, has been consistent the entire way–to the extent that he has lost only four times to go along with his 49 victories. The 36-year-old triumphed at the Australian Open and Wimbledon in addition to titles in Indian Wells, Miami, Halle, Shanghai, and Basel. As those results indicate, Federer is no longer slowed by the back issue that troubled him at the U.S. Open–where he fell to Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarterfinals. The world No. 2 is 10-0 in his last 10 matches, lifting trophies in Shanghai and Basel along the way.

Federer’s illustrious year-end championship history makes this an even more daunting task for Sock, who is making his first appearance at the O2 Arena in London. The veteran is 52-12 lifetime at this tournament (25-7 in London) with six titles–the last one coming in 2011. His bid for a seventh should begin in routine fashion.

Pick: Federer in 2

70 Comments on World Tour Finals preview and prediction: Federer vs. Sock

  1. Pick is fed in two but wouldn’t mind Sock getting a set to help his chances in making the semis. I want him and Roger to be the ones to make it out of the group even though it will probably be Roger and Cilic or Zverev.

  2. Fed in 2. I think it’ll be Fed and Cilic in the semis. Zverev has not been playing well this fall, nor has Sock.

    I think the only opponent that can trouble Fed here is his own back.

      • Yeah, I saw some of Paris. Sock beat Julien Benneteau in the semis and that Serb qualifier in the finals. Not impressed, sorry. Anyway, playing good, bad or indifferent no way he was going to beat Fed at the WTF. I also don’t think he can take Cilic or Zverev. He might get a set or two.

        Sock IS a great doubles player, maybe the best there. Pity he’s not IN the doubles.

  3. If Federer is fit, no way he’s gonna lose against Sock, a player who’s yet to take a set from him.
    Given that it’s his first time there, it will be even more difficult for Jack to pull a big upset against one of the best indoor hard court players of all time.

  4. For me, it’s just really hard to predict Federer to lose any matches at this tourney if his back is fine. The only two losses he’s had this season to top players were both when he wasn’t at his fittest. I obviously can’t claim to know that he wouldn’t have lost those two matches anyway even if he was fit. But it’s still a pretty striking stat. Almost as striking as the fact that he actually did lose two matches this season when he WAS healthy- both in 1st Round to the most random opponents ever haha.
    Therefore, his first match is obviously important to see where his fitness/health is at. (Almost) everyone in this tourney is capable of beating Fed on their day, but once he gets through that first match, I just don’t see any evidence from the past 10 months as to why anyone should expect him to lose to anyone in this tournament as long as his back is good. Not saying it won’t happen- I’m not a psychic. Definitely not saying it can’t happen. I just feel like it would be more of choosing to guess that he might lose than actually having solid evidence for why someone thinks he WILL lose… Just a thought.

    I actually felt the same way with Rafa during Roland Garros. When a (very) few people were “predicting” Rafa to lose at RG, I couldn’t help but feel like they were just making an unrealistically bold prediction because they knew that there was like a 5% chance it could actually happen, so why not be bold and call it a prediction?

    I understand that some people just “have that sneaking feeling” that the upset will happen, and sometimes they’re right! But even a dead clock is right twice per day…. I can’t even count the amount of times this season I said before a match, “I just feel like _____ is going to come through this one!”, only to realize that feeling was incorrect. But statistically, upsets do happen, however irregularly, so if you keep predicting upsets you’ll eventually get a couple right!

    I also understand the notion that because Fed has lost so few times this season on HC, especially to top players, that statistically he’s got to get beat by a top player again eventually. And where better than at the very end of the season with a field of the best active players on tour? I guess I just need to see it happen- then I will entertain predicting another Federer loss in 2017.

    • Thank you Kevin for noting the “choosing to guess rather than have solid evidence” statement. It makes me laugh how some are picking an unfit Nadal to win the whole thing and for Fed to lose many sets in round robin and to lose in the semis. It seems like hoping rather than making an actual logical prediction. I hope people realize Fed has an obvious distinct advantage over everyone here on this surface. And I mean EVERYONE. Any match Fed loses here is an upset. Many of those possible losses would be huge upsets too not minor ones. If this tourney was on clay, some of these picks would make sense to me LOL. But on indoor hard courts and with Rafa nursing an elbow injury he decided to play through his first few matches with at Paris, I don’t see how Rafa can win this thing. If he makes the finals alone, it will be an unbelievable achievement, given the circumstances.

  5. Sock has 6 DFs? He’s learning fast from a certain Spaniard, does he has knee issue also?

    Sock DF at critical moment in the TB, after getting back on serve to 3-4, what was he thinking? Sock is 25 but he looked less fit than a 36 yo man, still a long way to go for him. I really don’t know whether he’s good enough to keep his top ten ranking next season.

    • For a man who won total of 10-12 points on Fed’s serve in the whole match, Sock was lucky to stretch Fed to tie-break in the second set. Just goes to show Sock can sometimes win tourneys caveat being 7-8 out of top 10 should be absent.

      • I am honestly not overjoyed about Rafa playing… Have been saying to chloro repeatedly via email that it feels like he’s over playing.
        I really want him to concentrate on Ao!!

  6. As far as Federer is concerned, that win over Sock was definitely important because now he can afford to lose one of his other two matches and still be able to make the semis. It would have been concerning for Fed to lose to Sock, or even just lose a set. He should beat Sock in straight sets 10 out of 10 times in his sleep, especially indoors.

      • But good enough to beat players like Sock or the others; none of them are great returner of serves ( Rafa included, after seeing he couldn’t get a single BP chance at Shanghai).

        It’s still Djoko who can beat Fed on this court but he’s not around this year. The title is Fed’s to lose imo; only a fit Delpo could beat this Fed on this court this season imo but too bad, Delpo couldn’t qualify.

        • I think that Cilic, Zverev, Rafa, and Dimitrov can beat Federer at this tournament…. It’s just unlikely. If any of those 4 guys are really on fire, and Fed’s level drops a little, he could lose to any of them. I wouldn’t bet money on that happening, as Fed has still won just about every match he’s played this year when his level dropped a bit. I think that’s actually been one area where he’s maybe played better than he ever as- fighting through matches. He won at least 5 matches this season against top players where he easily could have ended up losing.

          Like those matches against Kyrgios and Berdych in Miami. It’s like a miracle that he managed to fight through those matches. Especially given the age factor, it’s just been kind of weird for me to see Federer coming up with all these super-close, hard-fought wins where he maybe wouldn’t have come through some of them in the past. AO final was another example.

          I just consistently saw this fearlessness in Federer during really big moments this season that I feel like I hadn’t seen for a long time. Sure, he has been clutch many times through his career, but I had never seen him show it as consistently through a season as he did this year. And I think that he definitely struggled more with the really close, could-go-either-way matches once he got into his 30’s. That’s why this sudden resurgence of being really clutch was surprisingly impressive for me.

          Could be that being more fit from the limited schedule gave the mental aspect of his game a boost? Sort of like how Rafa is at his mental best when he doesn’t have that fear of injury holding him back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Novak, Andy, and Stan get back to a high level once they are able to trust that they can go all out without hurting themselves. I feel like that aspect is almost subconscious. Like they don’t even notice that they’re holding back at all because there’s a part of their subconscious that will not let them be fearless in order to protect the body from re-injury.

          • Berdych and Kyrgios? Berdych not known to be clutch; Kyrgios could lose it with the crowd against him.

            The AO? Fed sensed his chance when Rafa looked a tad weary; a fitter Rafa might not let that lead in the fifth set slipped away.

            I would say when Fed is playing well, only the other big four guys can live with him when they’re playing well too. A fit Delpo playing at the top of him game too is another who could stay with Fed.

            I have to say, there’s still a wide gap between the big four plus Delpo, and the rest of the field. Stan and Cilic when their games are on could beat anyone but sadly their games were mostly off, ie more off than on.

            • Lucky, you’re missing the point… Opponent has nothing to do with it. I am saying that I don’t think Fed would have been as likely to come through those matches in the past few years, especially not that many of them in one season. Fed had one of these types of matches vs. Kyrgios where he had match points and ended up losing. If I’m not mistaken, he has also had these types of matches before against Berdych as well.

              Never mind the opponent, I just don’t think I’m seen Fed come through that many ridiculously close matches in such a short period of time. He admitted it himself- he said that he had suddenly started feeling more relaxed and confident in those really big moments- and it shows!

              I know that you will never see eye-to-eye with me on the AO final, but just hear me out on this one moment from that match… When Fed was serving for the championship, Rafa did what he does and went up 15-40 with 2 break-back points. Let’s not pretend like in previous years that scenario didn’t automatically equal Rafa breaking back and ultimately winning. First break point, Fed serves an ace. Second break point, Fed waits through a couple groundies, and then decides to go for a perfectly placed cross court forehand winner, to survive the break-back points. When serving for the championship. Against his biggest rival. Who he hadn’t beaten at a major in a decade. I’m telling you- those were absolutely the two clutches points I have ever seen Federer play. Forget about the whole rest of the match and everything surrounding it. Just that one single moment- some people won’t admit it, but most people surely thought, “Here we go again, Fed folds under immense pressure, and Rafa does what he’s known for…”

              Can you imagine level of nerves that Fed had in the moments before he saved those break points. He knew that if he didn’t save them, the match would more likely than not go to Rafa. He knew that the proceeding two points could make or break the way people view him in terms of being able to come up big, and being able to beat Rafa in those moments. And in that moment, there was absolutely nothing Rafa could have done. It was all Federer taking his own destiny in his hands. Remember, we’re just talking that one moment, not everything else about that match.

              You have to agree with me, Lucky, that those two points were definitely a level of mental toughness that we had very rarely, if ever, seen from Roger Federer. And think about all the times when Fedal faced in a major final, and Fed couldn’t convert any of his many breakpoints, and eventually succumbed. In AO final fifth set, no matter how tired anyone was, or how good or bad anyone’s level was, the point is that Federer just did not let down in pressing for breaks. He failed to convert what seemed like a million break points, but he kept pressing for it like he never had before in those matches. He said after the match that he and Ivan had discussed that exact scenario beforehand. They knew that it was very possible for Fed to get stuck in that same old position he’s found himself in against Rafa in major finals, where he has countless chances and can’t capitalize. He said that he was able to relax his mind enough in those moments to only think about one point at a time, and not let the pressure get to him. And that is just not something we had seen from Fed that often before.

              It doesn’t matter which top player it is- Fed has rarely come through those could-go-either-way sorts of matches, in Big tournaments, as consistently as he has this season. In those biggest of moments against top players, where that one point, or one shot even will decide the fate of the match, the opponent on the other side of net is never as big of a problem as your own mind. It doesn’t matter if it’s Djokovic, Kyrgios, Berdych, Rafa, whoever- if you can’t stay composed, any of those top players can do away with you just as easily as the others. Luck is obviously always involved at least a little bit, but even with that factored in, it doesn’t change the fact that Federer has been more CONSISTENTLY clutch than he has been in any other season in my memory.

          • Kevin, the fact that Djoko was wobbling this season (and last season) perhaps had played a part in Fed feeling more confident, after all in the last two or three seasons, it’s Djoko who stopped Fed at the slams (esp in the finals!), not Rafa who was also wobbling, for two years.

            Also, the fast court at AO did play a part in Fed feeling more confident (against anyone including Rafa). Fed getting past Kei and Stan in five sets might have given him some belief too, that he’s able to come through tough matches like those. All these of course were in addition to him working on his BH during his six months break.

            To me, the biggest factor is still the absence of a top form Djoko; both Fed and Rafa stand to gain; I would expect a top form Djoko to win at IW/Miami at least, given they’re slow HCs.

      • In the first set his serve wasn’t quite as good, but in the 2nd set it was unstoppable… He only lost 4 points on serve in the 2nd set, and got almost 70% first serves in. And for the whole match, he didn’t face a single breakpoint, which is partly related to to Jack Sock maybe being a bad returner, but still. His serve was untouchable in that second set. As you said before, Amy, if there was one thing for Fed to be at all concerned about, it would be that he couldn’t convert any of those 5 break points in the 2nd set. If I’m not mistaken, I think that’s been one aspect that he has become less formidable with since Wimbledon.

        I’d say it’s probably more likely that his (relatively) average serving in the first set was probably just because it was first set played since Basel. When you look at how unstoppable he was on serve in the second set, I can’t help but think he just needed to get rolling a bit.

        Anyway, he looked pretty damn solid overall. I’d be interested to see what his tiebreaker win-loss record is in 2017.

        • Fed has had issues with converting break points for years Kevin! Maybe it’s something all great players get when they are older? as Rafa has had the same problem for a while now
          I thought fed played pretty well and he’ll loosen up and get better once he’s got used to the court speed..

          • Yeah, Fed has definitely struggled with break point conversion at various times in his career. Especially against Rafa! But I thought that he has significantly improved his conversion rate in the first half of 2017… Am I wrong? I could easily be wrong about that because I admittedly have not checked the actual stats, but I thought I remember hearing people say that he was converting better.
            Anyway, if he had gotten better with conversion rate in the first half of this season, I also thought that he has reverted back to having a not-so-good conversion rate post-Wimbledon this season. But maybe I’m wrong about that, too. 🙂

        • Ha Kevin, I happened to look at the number of TBs he played this season – he played 28 including this one vs Sock, lost 8 of them so he’s winning about 71% of them. On grass he played eight of them, won seven losing one to Haas when he lost the match.

          Playing 28 TBs in 54 matches, that’s quite a lot I think.

          • Rafa played 21 TBs lost 7 of them, ie he won 67%; 21 TBs in 77 matches – about 27% of the times that his matches went to TB sets.

            Fed’s 28 in 54 matches, ie about 52%.

            • Some matches had two or even three TBs in a set; there were 22 matches with TBs out of 54 played, so effectively it’s 41% of matches with TB sets.

            • Seems to me TB’s are more common in hard court sets these days? And especially on grass. Maybe why the difference in numbers? Fed played all hard court and grass while Rafa played a lot of clay with both the surface and Rafa’s dominance cutting down on the TB’s there.

            • Fed played 8 TBs on grass, the balance of 20 on HCs. He played 13 matches on grass and 41 on HCs so far.

              Rafa played 1 TB on grass (he had played four matches on grass); 4 TBs on clay (he played 25 matches on clay) and 16 TBs on HCs (he played 48 matches on HCs).

              Fed had a higher number of TBs on HCs despite playing fewer matches than Rafa and he lost fewer matches. I would say Fed was clutch where it mattered (in TBs) hence was able to win many of them.

    • Fed is sure to make the semi, don’t need to worry.

      Sock looks a bit overweight, no wonder sometimes he doesn’t move well, even though at times he can be rather quick. Sock’s ROS really needs some work; he really can’t get into Fed’s service games.

  7. I think Sock needs to lose some weight and get fitter. I don’t think he belongs here, but managing to get through a depleted field in Paris to win, got him here.

    I think he’s going to be outclassed here. Cilic and Zverev may be somewhat tired at this point in the season, but they have played quality tennis to earn their spots.

    I hope Rafa will be okay and is not pushing himself. I do not want him to sacrifice a strong start to 2018. The AO is a big deal to me. Rafa will have another shot at the double career slam.

    • Hi nny! Lovely to see you!
      I really really want Rafa to win ao and rg which he’s never done before so am very ambivalent about his playing here..

      • Amy,

        Great to see you here! I am also nervous about Rafa playing here. I hope that he is not pushing too hard. I understand Rafa wanting to play in this tournament, but I just hope what his knee will be okay.

  8. I marcelled at the footwork of the big four. Compared to players like Sock, they’re out of this world! Fed looked so light footed whilst Sock looked like his lumbering around the court. Djoko is also like Fed, light footed gliding around.

    Rafa is naturally very quick and agile around the court ( watch him on clay when he’s 18/19, incredibly quick and could pick himself up so quickly when he fell down). Even Fed commented that Rafa was one of the fastest (if not the fastest) player around.

    Murray is also very quick and after adding some muscles to his legs, he’s motoring around so powerfully and quickly and is incredible with his unbelievable gets and retrievals.

    It’s no wonder others find it so difficult to live with the big four, they’re mostly not as quick.

    • Yeah, no doubt that their movement is a big part of their respective greatness. I agree with you, Lucky, that Rafa has got to be the fastest guy ever in tennis, at least one of the best. In Agassi’s autobiography, when describing the Montreal final against Rafa, he says,

      “I go to Montreal and scratch and claw my way to the final against a Spanish kid everyone is talking about. Rafael Nadal. I can’t beat him. I can’t fathom him. I’ve never seen anyone move like that on a tennis court…”

      I love how he says, “I can’t fathom him”, that’s my favorite line. 🙂

        • Yeah, Robbie Koenig said in his commentary before the Fed/Sock match that the consensus among the players is that it’s playing “a little quicker”. So that would obviously favor Federer, Cilic, and Zverev. It could also help Rafa in terms of his knee because it could allow him to keep points shorter if he so chooses. I suppose Dimitrov also likes quicker surfaces.

          • Quick court won’t help Rafa. What might, though, is that the court seems to me to be higher bouncing even if it is fast. What’s hardest for Nadal is low bouncing court and balls.

          • The court is faster than in 2015 but according to Cilic it’s about the same or slower than Paris; so it’s not very fast like that of Shanghai. I think all these are relative, it depends on what you compare it with – O2 Arena in the past, or other HCs this season.

            • Well, Rafa still made it to the final of Shanghai despite it being quick and low bouncing, beating Dimi and Cilic along the way. It’s not like he’s hopeless on those courts; the most important thing is that he’s fit and healthy and playing well.

              We don’t know how he’ll play here until we see his first match. Let’s wait and see.

  9. Good win for Roger. Sock played well, except for double faults; the one in the TB was very disappointing. Sock could definitely get less soft around the middle, but his movement was good and he is deceptively quick. If he can get a bit more consistent on serve and stay healthy, he can definitely make the top 10 next year.

    Fed really struggled with ROS, especially in 2nd set, but a lot of that was the Sock serve. His 1st serve was a monster, regularly coming in over 130 mph and loaded with spin. I think he only lost one or two points on it all match. The 2nd serve has all sorts of action, and gave Roger a lot of trouble. Either he was good at consistently jamming Fed, or else there was something really off in Roger’s return. Not sure which.

    Even though Fed’s serve was excellent in 2nd set, I’m concerned that his serve mechanics have changed a bit, probably compensating for his back. He’s not getting as much arm extension as usual, and it’s causing more net cords and less margin for error generally. Cilic and Zverev are his two biggest threats, imo, and either one could beat him even if they won’t be favoured. If he gets past the group stage I actually think his road will get a bit easier.

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