AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Fourth-seeded American Jack Sock made amends for the disappointment from a year ago, when he beat Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in Saturday's final to win the ASB Tennis Classic.
Sock also reached the tournament final in 2016, but had to pull out of the title match due to illness.
The 24-year-old Kansas resident is ranked 23 but only had one career title to his name, having lost his past four finals, so his emotional response to Saturday's win was understandable.
Sousa beat fifth-seeded Alberto Ramos-Vinolas and eighth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis on his way to Saturday's showdown with Sock. Though the finalists knew each other well, playing doubles and regularly practicing together, they had only met once before on the ATP Tour: last year in Madrid when Sousa won in three sets.
Sock came back from a break and 40-15 down in the deciding set to snatch his second career title, and enters next week's Australian Open in a confident mood, having also shown good form in the preceding Hopman Cup tournament in Perth, Australia.
"Coming from Perth, I played a lot there so I felt good coming into this week, but you never know how your first tournament of the year can go," Sock said.
"I lost the second set today and I had to regroup and buckle down. In the off-season we worked a lot on that, regrouping and putting a lot of things behind you."
Sock took a close first set with a single break in the seventh game, then found himself a break down after the third game of the second set.
Sock immediately broke back, but Sousa gained the advantage again when Sock double faulted at break point in the 11th game and served out the set to square the match.
The decisive set followed a similar patter. Sock dropped serve in the third game, but broke back in the fourth and the match went with serve until the eighth game when Sousa double faulted at break point.
"I've been playing at a good level so it gives me a lot of confidence to face the first grand slam of the year," Sousa said. "It's going to be a tough one...but hopefully I can continue to play at this level and get a good result."