Everyone experiences days when nothing appears to go their way. Unfortunately for Jack Sock, it happened in the second round of Wimbledon against No.8 seed Milos Raonic.
The 21-year-old American looked agitated, despondent and out of sorts during the match, which saw him call for the doctor towards the end of the opening set. The pills he washed down did little to help his cause with the Canadian prevailing 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to book a Wimbledon third round place for the first time in his career.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. Ranked No.77 in the world, Sock may stand 69 places below Raonic but he claimed the Canadian’s scalp on the hard courts of Memphis last year. Although he has lost to him twice since, the contests have been close; he bowed out in three sets in 2013 in Cincinnati and lost 6-4, 7-6 in this year’s Miami-1000 event.
On paper the match looked to be a promising clash and at precisely 11.45am the men commenced their duel on an immaculate Court 3.
Initially it seemed the spectators would be in for a treat. Raonic, who stands at 6ft 5ins, belted down serves at astonishing speed, consistently hitting balls in the 130mph region and although Sock’s were often 10–15mph slower, they were equally effective.
Both men held comfortably until the fourth game when things started to go awry for Sock who threw in a double fault and blasted an easy forehand volley out of the court. The latter mistake dented his concentration – a few points later he was still muttering about it – voicing his frustration with an expletive, which went unnoticed by the umpire.
Meanwhile Raonic, who before Thursday’s triumph had won back-to-back matches on grass just twice in his career, continued his serving assault – firing down six of the 13 aces he would go on to deliver – in the first set alone.
On occasions he appeared to struggle with his backhand, but his forehand was firing on all cylinders. The toll began to show on his Nebraskan opponent who dinked his racket, dropped his head and became increasingly animated.
First there came the roll of the eyes when a Raonic ball clipped the net and dribbled over. Sock’s shoulders then headed south when his 23-year-old opponent scrambled to reach a drop shot and hit a winning overhead a couple of strokes later. Sighs then followed. All was not well and at the change of ends he called for a doctor who rushed on court and promptly handed him two pills.
The tablets would make little difference to the end result.
After the match Raonic, who holds five tour titles, declared he was happy with his concentration, and admitted his movement had improved on the turf.
Three years ago he fell in a second round match, hurt his hip and required surgery but it seems as though the psychological demons are slowly becoming a thing of the past.
“For me, the most important thing, especially on grass, is finding that rhythm on second serve return,” he said after the match. “I found that quite early on, and I was able to stick through it. Both of first two sets I was able to get early breaks, which helps. I was clean off my service games.”
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