© Getty Images

Jack Sock prevails in an all-American clash against Steve Johnson.

Sock Powers Into Auckland Final

American to play Sousa for title

Fourth seed Jack Sock continued his flying start to 2017 at the ASB Classic in Auckland, moving into the final with a 6-4, 6-3 win over seventh seed and fellow American Steve Johnson.

“It wasn’t easy. Stevie is such a good player and had such a good year last year. I was able to fortunately get a couple of breaks and that was enough,” said Sock. “I enjoy being out here, playing in front of big crowds and being on big stages. Obviously I want to win, but either way, I’ve played a lot of matches this week and my confidence is high.”

The No. 23 in the Emirates ATP Rankings continues to excel in Auckland, having finished runner-up last year (l. Bautista Agut), and now sports a 10-2 record at this event. Sock also finished runner-up in 2016 in Houston (l. Monaco) and Stockholm (l. del Potro).

Standing between him and the title is Joao Sousa, who recorded an emphatic 6-1, 7-5 win over eighth seed Marcos Baghdatis in the other semi-final. The Portuguese player is into his first ATP World Tour final since lifting up the winner’s trophy at Valencia in November 2015.

"I think the hard work has paid off. I had a really good pre-season and I feel great," said Sousa. "I’ve been playing better and better as this tournament goes on, moving really well. I look forward to tomorrow’s final.”

Sousa leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry against Sock 1-0, with the lone win coming this past May at the Mutua Madrid Open, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event.

Sock grabbed the lone break of serve in the opening set against Johnson with an overhead winner to lead 5-4 and took the early advantage one game later. A backhand slice passing shot saw the fourth seed earn a crucial break to lead 2-1 in the second set. Sock closed out the match with another break of serve at 5-3 by rifling a forehand passing shot winner on match point.

Sousa raced to a 5-0 lead in his opening set against Baghdatis as the eighth seed struggled to find the range on his shots. Both players traded service holds throughout the second set, but Sousa found another gear by breaking Baghdatis to love for a 6-5 lead and then firing an ace in the next game on his third match point.

DOUBLES: Jonathan Erlich and Scott Lipsky continued their solid week in Auckland, defeating Nicholas Monroe and Artem Sitak 6-4, 6-4 in semi-final action. Erlich and Lipsky have yet to drop a set this week. They will play fourth seeds Marcin Matkowski and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, who beat wild cards Marcus Daniell and Marcelo Demoliner 6-4, 6-4.

More stories like this in: