Friday, October 7, 2011

Blake is head and shoulders above Sock

   A sprained ankle and sore hip were the least of Jack Sock's problems Friday.
   Much more damaging was his inexperience against a cagey veteran.
   Top-seeded James Blake, who will turn 32 in December, dismantled Sock, a wild card who turned 19 two weeks ago, 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Racquet Club Challenger in Sacramento.
   An announced capacity crowd of 650, the largest in the tournament's seven-year history, watched the matchup of players representing the United States' past and future on a gorgeous afternoon following several days of cold, rainy weather.
   Blake will face fellow Tampa, Fla., resident Alex Kuznetsov in today's second semifinal. The unseeded Kuznetsov, who also reached the Sacramento semifinals five years ago at 19, beat fourth-seeded Bobby Reynolds of Acworth, Ga., 7-6 (0), 6-3.
   Blake is 2-0 lifetime against Kuznetsov, a Ukraine native who moved to the United States at 3, with both matches coming in 2007.
   In today's first semifinal at noon, second-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia will meet third-seeded Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native living in Las Vegas. Don't look for a lot of long rallies in this one. Karlovic, 6-foot-10, and Querrey, 6-6, are two of the hardest servers in tennis.
   Querrey, who turned 24 Friday, leads the series 3-1 (3-0 on hardcourt). All of the matches came in 2007 and 2008.  
   Blake, ranked a career-high No. 4 in the world in 2006, missed three months last year with knee tendinitis and plunged to No. 173 in March. He has rebounded to No. 75.
   Sock, from Overland Park, Kan., turned pro in July and won the U.S. Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin last month. Last year, he became the first American since Andy Roddick in 2000 to win the U.S. Open junior boys title. This summer, he became the first player since Donald Young in 2006 to win two consecutive USTA Boys 18 National Championships.
   "He's a great player," Blake said of Sock. "He has a lot of talent. He would have beaten the pants off me at 19. He has a lot to learn, for sure, but he's already done a lot at 19. I can see him being a completely different player next year at this time."
   Sock rolled his ankle running down a drop shot Wednesday but said it was 95 percent of normal Friday. He also hurt his hip running for a ball early in the first set Friday but said the pain subsided during the match and that the injury didn't affect the outcome.
   Sock has the firepower to play with Blake, but mentally there's no comparison. Blake, unlike Sock, has learned how to control his emotions on the court and maintain his concentration.
   With Blake serving at 5-4 in the first set, Sock earned his only break point of the match but failed to convert.
   "He probably felt he should have gotten into a tiebreaker," Blake said. "He got a little negative after that, and I used it to my advantage."
   After Sock lost his serve to open the second set, he swatted a ball halfway to Yolo County and received a warning from the chair umpire for ball abuse. In contrast, the most emotion Blake showed when he missed a shot was muttering "James ... "
   When Sock later double-faulted on break point to trail 4-1, the match was essentially over.
   "I started well and overall wasn't bad," Sock said. "But these guys have been out here a long time. You can't have loose points and games, or it'll cost you the match, and that's what happened."
   Sock finished with seven double-faults, which mystified him.
   "I've been serving well all week," said Sock, who will play in Sunday's doubles final with Nicholas Monroe of Chapel Hill, N.C. "One of (Blake's) better shots is his backhand return. When it's on, he can do whatever he wants with it. I thought I'd take some chances, and they didn't go in today."
   ATP, WTA tours in Beijing -- Two teams with Northern California ties lost in doubles semifinals of the China Open.
   Bob and Mike Bryan, the No. 1 men's seeds and former Stanford All-Americans, lost to third-seeded Michael Llodra of France and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 3-6, 7-6 (4), 10-3.
   Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals and Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova, seeded fourth in women's doubles, fell to No. 1 seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 6-4, 6-4.
At Natomas Racquet Club
Singles quarterfinals

   James Blake (1), Tampa, Fla., def. Jack Sock, Lincoln, Neb., 6-4, 6-2. Alex Kuznetsov, Tampa, Fla., def. Bobby Reynolds (4), Acworth, Ga., 7-6 (0), 6-3. Sam Querrey (3), Las Vegas, def. Uladzimir Ignatik, Belarus, 7-5, 7-6 (9). Ivo Karlovic (2), Croatia, def. Thiemo de Bakker, Netherlands, 6-4, 7-6 (2).
Doubles semifinals
   Nicholas Monroe, Chapel Hill, N.C., and Jack Sock, Overland Park, Kan., def. Travis Rettenmaier, Los Angeles, and Simon Stadler, Germany, 6-4, 6-4. Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione, Australia, def. Vasek Pospisil, Canada, and Bobby Reynolds, Acworth, Ga., 6-2, 6-4.
Today’s schedule
(Beginning at noon)
Center Court

   Querrey (3) vs. Karlovic (2), Blake (1) vs. Kuznetsov.

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