Jack Sock and Marin Cilic didn’t have the best of starts at the Nitto ATP finals but now stand a chance to redeem themselves as they square off each other on Tuesday at the O2 arena.
Both players had very different opening bouts in London. However, they couldn’t avoid defeats.
Cilic (fifth-seeded) started the better against the youngest player in the field, third-seeded Alexander Zverev, leading by a break in the third set. But the German fought back to win five of the final six games to shock the Croatian. Cilic’s record fell to 1-6 at the Nitto ATP Finals, which he is playing in for the third time.
Sock, on the other hand, never had the match under his control against second-seeded Roger Federer, who has won 30 of his past 32 matches. The Swiss broke the 25-year-old American immediately and never looked back. While Sock showed the good form that helped propel him from No. 24 in the Emirates ATP Race To London to eventually make the cut in the Race's final week, Federer was simply too hot to handle.
The American should go into the contest with the bragging rights knowing that he has won both of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Cilic, which happened to be two of the biggest wins of his career. Sock came back from two sets down in a Davis Cup rubber last year before eliminating the seventh seed in straight sets at the US Open later in the season.
It will be interesting to see who will win the battle between each player's best stroke — Sock’s overpowering topspin forehand and Cilic’s rock-solid backhand. Sock is likely to shade to his backhand corner to hit as many forehands as possible, which may open up space for Cilic to unleash his more consistent shot: his backhand down the line.
While both players lost their opening matches, there is every reason for both of the players to stay motivated.
Cilic climbed to a career-high of No. 4 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in October, while Sock battled from 1-5 down in his opening match in Paris to claim his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title, which propelled him not only into the Nitto ATP Finals, but the Top 10 of the rankings for the first time.
Can Sock earn his first win at the ATP finals? Cilic should have plans to dash the American’s hopes!