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Sock digs deep for maiden Classic triumph

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/01/2017 Angelo Risso

Listless, fatigued and flu-ridden, Jack Sock's ASB Classic title tilt was cut short at the very last hurdle in 2016.

Twelve months on and sniffle-free, the American has finally lifted Kiwi tennis' biggest trophy.

The fourth-seeded Sock won the ASB Classic men's singles final on Saturday after a 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory over Portuguese world No.44 Joao Sousa.

There was little in the match between Sock and his unseeded opponent, with match momentum swinging between the pair from beginning to end.

But after failing to capitalise on chances to secure the match in the second set, Sock dug deep in the decider to peg Sousa back from a break down and lift the title.

Service was a key plank in both players' games, with Sock hitting 13 aces and Sousa notching 10.

But it was ultimately the Nebraskan's first-serve potency that secured him the title, winning 80 per cent of first-serve points to Sousa's 67 per cent.

"I knew I was going to be up for a tough battle and had a look there at 4-5, 0-30, but he's able to come up with some big serves and turn the momentum around," Sock said.

"I was able to get it back early in the third."

Both players looked on an even keel early on, dictating their service games and forcing their opponent from side to side at the baseline.

Holding their first three games each, it was the Sock who eventually made the breakthrough, capitalising on unforced errors to break serve twice.

The world No.23 appeared likely to romp through the second set, holding serve easily before racing out to a 30-0 lead, facing serve at 1-0.

Yet Sousa put up a resistance, rallying to hold serve with four straight points before breaking a careless Sock to lead the set 2-1.

Sock immediately broke back, putting the set on a knife-edge until Sousa pulled a rabbit out of the hat with several beautiful forehands to secure a 7-5 set victory.

Confidently serving the match into a decider, Sousa looked primed for victory when he quickly broke serve at 1-1 on the back of several Sock unforced errors.

But this time it was the 24-year-old's turn to fight back, immediately breaking back and dominating Sousa's second serve with three thumping forehands down the line.

He then successfully broke serve at 4-3 by pulling out every trick in the book, from cross-court forehands to backhands, before serving out the tournament.

Collapsing in delight after match point, Sock said the Auckland victory meant a lot to him after being forced to retire in the second set of the 2016 final with flu.

It marks his second ATP final win after the 2015 US Clay Court Championship, and a solid preparation before next week's Australian Open.

"Any time you can take a title it feels really good, I've had it once before, I've had chances, lost in a few finals," Sock said.

"Not being beaten throughout a week before a grand slam, it's definitely a massive confidence booster and not only short term, but for the year."

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