Dimitrov overcomes Sock to set up final showdown in London against Goffin

Jack Sock went away quietly in the second set, but he was not about to see his season-ending run evaporate with a whimper. Sock provided plenty of drama right up to the finish line before Grigor Dimitrov finally got the best of him 4-6, 6-0, 3-6 in the semis of the Nitto ATP Finals on Saturday night.

The American was not only a surprising semifinalist in London, but he was also the longest of long-shots just to be in the tournament. At No. 24 in the 2017 race going into the Paris Masters, Sock needed to win the title to qualify for the year-end championship. And he did just that, even recovering from a 5-1 third-set deficit against Kyle Edmund in his opening match. With Sock having won each of his last two tilts against Dimitrov from match point down, there was even more reason to think this one would not be easy to finish off for the Bulgarian.

After Sock stole the first set from a break down and then all but tanked the second, a high-quality decider ensued. Drama came quickly and frequently in the final two games, fist with Sock serving at 3-4. The world No. 9 twice had a game point to hold for 4-4, and on one he clipped the net cord with what was on the way to being a winning forehand volley. Dimitrov ended up striking for the decisive break a few points later.

At 5-3, the Bulgarian surged to a 40-15 lead. But he squandered two match points en route to deuce and soon missed two more chances. Doubts must have been creeping in, especially given that Dimitrov had blown four match points when he lost to Sock earlier this season in Indian Wells. This time, though, the soon-to-be world No. 3 held his nerve. On his fifth opportunity, Dimitrov forced Sock into a forehand error and thus prevailed after one hour and 59 minutes.

“You cannot allow yourself to think about that on such a big occasion–such a big point, for example,” Dimitrov said when asked if he was thinking about his previous failures against Sock. (In) the past two matches, (I was) super unfortunate. But that’s what makes the game so special. You know, sometimes not only that you have to fight yourself mentally, but you need to fight the demons from previous matches or your opponent. There’s just so many things that you bring out.

“I was very happy the way I handled the pressure. Even though I was down a break point or something, even if I had to play an extra game or games, I had to accept it. I think you learn from those moments. I certainly learned from that experience.”

“Shouldn’t have been here in the first place,” Sock said when asked to recap his London experience. “To be here, my first appearance here, to make the semis, getting through a pretty tough group I thought, beating some good players…. For my first time, to play the three guys that were in our group, to get through, was a big confidence-booster for me.

“I’m definitely going to take the experience from the last three weeks, everything I learned, all the things I did well in the matches, things I can improve, work on those in the off-season, and get ready for 2018.”

For Dimitrov, he will get ready for a somewhat hard-to-believe Sunday final against David Goffin. This week’s sixth seed certainly won’t complain about facing Goffin, who stunned Roger Federer 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 during the afternoon session. He is 0-6 lifetime against Federer and 4-1 against Goffin–including a 6-0, 6-2 beatdown just three days ago at the O2 Arena.


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