DELRAY BEACH, Fla.—It’s been 16 months since Jack Sock won an ATP match, but he did it in phenomenal style on Tuesday at the Delray Beach Open. The unranked American took out defending champion Radu Albot, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2).
"I don’t think I was this emotional winning Wimbledon," Sock said. "I don’t know, it’s just been a couple of tough years, especially last year not even playing that much. Close to not playing the sport anymore."
The relief was so palpable, in his body language, his face, and his words, that it was impossible not to become a Sock fan, at least for the night. The win means more than you can imagine to the 27-year-old, who was both immensely emotional and grateful. He’s relied on huge support from his team—which includes his fiancée Lauren Little and coach Alex Bogomolov Jr.—to get him through his fall from the rankings.
"Without the people in my corner I probably wouldn't be here," he said. "Everything thanks to them for keeping my spirits up, keeping my positivity up, my belief up, because I didn’t have a whole lot there for a while."
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The former world No. 8 also got the added roaring support of the Delray crowd on Tuesday night.
"That was amazing, especially for a week night early in the tournament," Sock said. "The was a massive factor in pulling that out for sure."
It very, very nearly didn’t unfold with a happy ending as he had to save a match point at 5-6, but that escape slipped from his mind remarkably quickly.
"He did have match point, jeez, I'm not even sure," Sock said. "Just stuck to my pattern: I'm going to kick wide and look for a forehand. I was able do that. Thought I missed the overhead for a second, but cleared the net."
Since winning the ATP Masters in 2017 and finishing the year with an ATP Finals semifinal appearance, Sock had a huge loss in form, which saw him lose 15 first-round matches in 2018. In early 2019, he suffered a right thumb injury that required surgery, and cost him nearly seven months on tour. Even his doubles career stagnated: he went from six titles, including two majors, and a No. 2 ranking, to zero finals in 2019 and a current ranking of No. 129.
Technically, Sock did get a singles win in 2019, at the Laver Cup over Fabio Fognini but "some people don't count that" he said. He lost all eight of his other eight matches, and was dumped out of the New York Open last week by Marcos Giron.
There are now nine Americans still in the draw in Delray, and next up for Sock is compatriot Steve Johnson.
"We won the bronze medal together [in Rio]. I've known him for a long time," Sock said. "Honestly I think I can play free now that I've got a win finally, so see how it goes."
The two won't face off until Thursday, and a free-flowing Sock will be dangerous for any opponent.
"To come out here I felt somewhat back to my normal self," Sock said. "I just kept telling myself I need to get through that first match at a tournament somewhere. My tennis usually gets better throughout an event. So hopefully I can keep producing something."