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Jack Sock overcomes a sluggish start at the ASB Classic.

Sock Rallies For Auckland Semis

American roars back to oust No. 4 seed Anderson 1-6, 6-4, 6-4

Jack Sock had reason to worry. After all, South African Kevin Anderson is often at his best when playing Americans. In 2015, he went 8-4 against them. But Sock reversed that trend on Thursday at the ASB Classic, storming back from a slow start to oust the No. 4 seed 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 and advance to his first semi-final of 2016, marking the moment by unveiling a new celebratory tradition.   

“It feels great,” said Sock, who was out-aced 14-7. “He came out serving really well. He didn’t miss many first serves, didn’t let me get in the match. That’s why he’s No. 12 in the world, Top 10 last year. I knew it was going to be tough, but I was able to get in a little bit of a rhythm on returns and lucky enough to get a win.”

With his wife, Kelsey, watching court-side, Anderson secured service breaks in the fourth and sixth games to take the first set in just 28 minutes, capping the stanza with his seventh ace of the afternoon.

Sock, No. 26 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, cut down on the unforced errors in the second set and had a pair of break points with Anderson serving at 4-5. The 23-year-old would make good on the second, leveling the match at one set apiece.

With his opponent’s first-serve percentage wavering each set (80%/48%/55%), Sock cranked up his return game. With Anderson serving to stay in the match at 4-5 in the deciding set, Sock converted his second break of the day to punctuate the one-hour, 38-minute comeback. Anderson, who was making his fifth Auckland appearance in the past six years, is still seeking his first ASB title.

How did Sock celebrate? Aptly, he gave away one of his match-used socks to a fan.

“We were talking about it in warm-up today,” said Sock. “Jo [Tsonga] has got his thing, a few people have their own things. I think with such a unique name that I have, we figured I might start a new tradition and give a sock away if I win.”

“I was going to sign it and then give it out, but I wore black socks, so that’s kind of difficult," he quipped. "I might bring a white one with me and see how it goes. I got a little tight today. I looked over at my box — ‘Should I do it, should I not?’ I did it real quick. I just turned around and threw it to some guy. I think I need to go out and play it up a little more, hold it up and see who wants it. Whoever wants a really sweaty sock can have it.”

Asked if he knows of any other athletes who do something similar, Sock deadpanned, “I don’t know another athlete with the last name Sock.”

Next up for the American is top seed David Ferrer, who is through to his seventh semi-final in Auckland after a 71-minute 6-3, 6-4 win over Lukas Rosol. The Spaniard is now an unblemished 6-0 against the Czech in Fed Ex ATP Head2Head encounters.

“I played better than my first match (d. Matthew Barton 6-2, 6-4),” said Ferrer. “With Lukas, I have to play well to beat him. I tried to serve good and be aggressive with my forehand. The important thing is I am in the semi-finals playing good tennis.”

Playing his 10th quarter-final in 11 appearances at the ASB Classic, the World No. 8 converted a pair of breaks in the opening set, in the third and ninth games. With Rosol serving to stay in the match down 0-40, 4-5 in the second set, Ferrer smacked a forehand winner to secure his third and final break and close it out.   

Rosol, who finished with 28 unforced errors, fell to 3-21 against Top-10 competition.

No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut avenged a loss to John Isner at the ASB Classic in the 2014 semi-finals, outhitting the No. 3 seed and two-time champion 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in one hour and 41 minutes.

“I had revenge today,” said the Spaniard, who has now won nine of 11 matches against Americans since his loss to Isner two years ago. “I had to play well. I had to stay focused throughout the match. It wasn’t easy to play today. We had no rhythm, and John was serving really well. We had a lot of wind. I’m happy to be in the semi-finals.”

A night after firing 31 aces to defeat fellow American Sam Querrey, Isner finished with 17, winning 39 of 53 first-serve points.

It will be a Bautista Agut-Tsonga semi-final after the No. 2-seeded Frenchman hammered 12 aces and saved the only break point he faced in downing No. 6 seed Fabio Fognini 7-5, 7-6(4) in one hour and 42 minutes.Tsonga is now on an 11-match win streak against Italian opponents.

Doubles: No. 4 seeds through to semi-finals

No. 4 seeds Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky prevailed in an all-American showdown with Donald Young and Nicholas Monroe 6-2, 4-6, 10-5 in 62 minutes to reach the final four. Austrians Julian Knowle and Oliver Marach move on via a walkover against Isner and Rosol.

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