Jack Sock had just laced up his sneakers Sunday and was walking onto the practice court, about to warm up with his coach in preparation for his final match at the Delray Beach Open against the top seed, Canadian Milos Raonic.
But before the 24-year-old American had even reached the baseline or hit a single stinging forehand, he spied Raonic and ATP Tour supervisor Tom Barnes walking toward him. Before the two competitors could even come face to face or shake hands, Raonic was saying, “I’m sorry.”
“That’s pretty much when I knew something was up,” said Sock of the slightly torn right hamstring that forced Raonic to retire one match shy of the championship.
The win gave Sock his second title of 2017 and helped propel him to a career-high No. 18 in the ATP world rankings. His 11-1 match record is one of the best on tour. Only Roger Federer, who won the Australian Open last month, has a better winning percentage.
Sock, the highest-ranked American male and the third seed in Delray Beach, did not drop a set all week and took home $90,605 for the win. His blistering serve — he hit 26 aces in four matches — and much-improved backhand were effective complements to his much-feared, high-kicking whip forehand.
“It’s not ideal for either side but a title is a title,” said Sock, who won his first championship at the Delray Beach Tennis Center as a 16-year-old when he captured the National Boys’ 18 Clay Courts in 2009. “I’ve been playing well. Now I just have to keep my head down and do everything I can to progress.”
“This is disappointing in a lot of ways,” said Raonic, who also sustained an adductor injury during his run to the Australian Open quarterfinals that forced him to pull out of Canada’s Davis Cup tie against Great Britain. “Being one match away from a title and not being able to compete, that’s not easy to accept.”
The quick end to his day held another advantage for Sock, who instead of playing the final entertained the crowd with a spirited one-set exhibition against former touring pro and local resident Jesse Levine.
Then the Kansas City resident hopped in a car and headed 28 miles north on the Florida Turnpike to watch his buddy, Rickie Fowler, win the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. The two met during the Rio Olympics, where Sock won a gold medal in mixed doubles with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and a bronze in men’s doubles with Steve Johnson.
“Hopefully, we can meet up [Sunday night] for a congratulatory glass of water,” said Sock with a chuckle. “That’s about as much as I can do. I have another match [in Acapulco] on Tuesday, so I will not partake in anything more.”