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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sock, Baker Reach Quarterfinals in Pro Tennis World Futures

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Sunrise, FL--

There wasn't much drama in either of the second round wins posted by Brian Baker and Jack Sock Thursday at the Pro Tennis World $10,000 Futures at the Sunrise Tennis Club; that would be provided by others. The 26-year-old Baker, coming back from five different surgeries in the past four years, beat qualifier Ed Corrie 6-2, 6-2, and Sock, who won the first US Futures of the year last week, defeated No. 5 seed Matwe Middelkoop 6-1, 6-1.

Sock needed less than an hour to down the 28-year-old from the Netherlands, whom he had beaten last week on his way to the Plantation title.

"It's always nice playing a guy the week before," said Sock, who is traveling with his new fitness trainer Farhad Zarif. "Knowing his tendencies, weaknesses and all that. I was just trying to make the points long and play every point hard, and I think I did that again, and wore him down a little bit."

Middelkoop has a good serve and a powerful forehand, but his shot tolerance was low, with Sock's chances of winning a point increasing with every stroke he could make. Middelkoop also seemed incredulous most of the match, but whether that response was to his own poor play or some of Sock's more stunning winners was hard to say. Sock employed the drop shot effectively in the first three games on the Har-Tru courts, mostly for outright winners, and he also won the majority of the net exchanges with his touch and reaction. He also hit a jumping forehand winner, which is commonly seen on the two-handed backhand side, but rarely used on the forehand; the dozen or so people watching broke into applause, not for the first time.

After losing nine straight games from 1-0 in the first set, Middelkoop got on the board, but never threatened to change the tenor of the match, and Sock easily closed out his seventh straight win to start the year.

"My fall obviously wasn't great," said Sock, who has accepted wild cards into the ATP events in San Jose and Memphis. "I didn't play many matches at all compared to a lot of the players out there. So I just wanted to come here to hopefully play a lot of matches, get some wins, get the confidence where it needs to be. I need to work on my game, play a lot of tennis."

In addition to the ATP events, Sock may play next week's Challenger in Hawaii and is also hoping to play at the Dallas Challenger next month; he would need wild cards for both events.

Baker also has Dallas and Memphis in his sights.

"You have to start here," said Baker, of Nashville, Tenn. "That's what everyone has to do. Even though I've done this when I was 16, 17, 18, now I have to do it again. Hopefully I can play well enough to get out of [the Futures] sooner rather than later. I'll have to play the qualies in Dallas, and then I'll play the qualies of Memphis."

The first five games between Baker and Corrie, the former University of Texas standout from Great Britain, went to the server, but Corrie had difficulty holding after that, broken the next three times he served and then in the match's final game. There were many long rallies, but once he got comfortable with his footing, Baker was able to come forward and play more offensive tennis. Corrie was especially vulnerable on his second serve, with Baker's return resulting in many outright winners.

Baker who is 21-5 (including qualifying wins) since returning to the tour last July, will play Olivier Patience of France, also unseeded, in the quarterfinals. Patience beat qualifier Sekou Bangoura 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, in a match that found both players struggling to hold serve. At 2-3 in the third set, Bangoura was broken, which started a string of five consecutive breaks of serve. Patience served for the match at 5-3, but didn't get to match point. Bangoura couldn't get to game point in the final game however, and with a well-executed backhand volley on his second match point, Patience moved past the former Florida Gator.

Sock will meet unseeded Andrea Collarini of the US, who defeated qualifier Rhyne Williams 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-4 in a match that took three hours and fifteen minutes to complete. Collarini, the left-hander who spent his formative years in Argentina, was up a set and serving at 5-2, when Williams began his comeback. Collarini was broken at 15 at 5-2 and at love at 5-4, with his first serve the primary culprit, although Williams did play error-free tennis during this stretch. Collarini, 19, didn't make a single first serve in that tenth game, double faulting once, and all the momentum was with Williams, who promptly lost his serve at 15 in the next game. With Collarini serving for the match for the third time, he did get to match point, but he wasn't able to convert it, with Williams passing him with a crosscourt forehand to save it. Two Collarini errors later it was 6-6, and Williams, the 2011 NCAA finalist while at Tennessee, ramped up his serving in the tiebreaker, hitting two aces and controlling the points on his serve with other effective first serves.

The weather was sunny, with a slight breeze, but there was no humidity, and both players looked fresh as the match approached the two-and-a-half hour mark. Although loudly bemoaning his fate at times, Williams kept his cool when he was in deep trouble, even when the chair umpire overruled himself not once but twice on Williams service winners with Williams serving at 1-2. Rather than getting the points, Williams had to win them again, but even though he did lose one of the replayed points, Williams did hold on to take the game and didn't let the bad luck send him off the rails.

Collarini got the first break of the final set, with Williams double faulting at 30-40 at 2-3. Collarini served for the match at 5-3, but again did not get to match point, and was broken for 5-4. Williams led 40-0 in the next game, but then his backhand began to cost him points, with a slice netted and a two-hander wide to make it 40-30. Collarini made a great return on the next point and never relinquished control of it, putting away an overhead after a long rally to make it deuce. Williams had two more game points he couldn't convert, and when he netted a forehand, Collarini had his second match point, more than an hour after his first. Williams' backhand pass handcuffed Collarini and he netted the volley, but he earned match point number three with a perfect forehand volley and ended the struggle with a crosscourt backhand winner.

Collarini and Sock played in January last year in the Tamarac Futures final round of qualifying, with Collarini winning 7-6(3), 6-3.

The other two quarterfinals will feature No. 4 seed Boy Westerhof of the Netherlands against No. 6 seed Pedro Sousa of Portugal and unseeded Morgan Phillips of Great Britain against No. 7 seed Nicolas Devilder of France.

The doubles final is set with No. 4 seeds Bangoura and Corrie against No. 3 seeds Chris Kwon and Ruben Gonzales.

Complete draws can be found at the Pro Circuit results page at usta.com.