Canada Day, Day 2: Sock It To Me!

Behind the fence of Court No. 9, Jack Sock (far) hits a forehand winner against No. 14 seed Grigor Dimitrov. Sock came back from match point down in the second set to win the match, 7-5 in the third.
Behind the fence of Court No. 9, Jack Sock (far) hits a forehand winner against No. 14 seed Grigor Dimitrov. Sock came back from match point down in the second set to win the match, 7-5 in the third. (A Lot of Sports Talk)

As Day 2 of our Canadian Masters experience winds to an end while watching Stan Wawrinka and Nick Kyrgios slug it out in the third set, here are some observations from Wednesday’s action.

Star-Spangled Tennis

How about the Yanks on Wednesday?!

Yes, Sam Querrey lost to David Goffin, but that was to be expected. But the other three Americans in the draw were spectacular in wins in matches where it would have surprised no one if they all had lost, especially given their opponents.

By far, the most impressive of the trio was Jack Sock, who came back from being down a set and match point in the second to come away with another impressive win over Grigor Dimitrov, who Sock wiped out in straight sets in the first round of this year’s French Open. In an epic, near-30 shot rally at 4-5, 30-40 in the second set, Sock saved that match point with a forehand winner, then held for five-all. He went on to win the second-set tiebreak, then won 7-5 in the third. Stardom has been tabbed for Sock ever since he won the U.S. Open juniors in 2010, but I, sadly, am almost forever skeptical of the rhetoric of the “next great American tennis player.” There’s been disappointment, untapped potential and just plain average play of any and all American tennis players that have tried to combine with and/or fill the shoes of Andy Roddick. The arsenal and variety is just not there from American players to challenge the cream of the tennis crop.

Seeing Sock in person yesterday convinced me that he’ll be in the Top 15, maybe the Top 10, in the next two or three years. He’s got weapons (especially, the penetrating forehand with lots of topspin). He’s got shot variety. He’s got emotion. He doesn’t look overmatched playing the game’s best, at least in terms of talent. Wiping out Dimitrov in this year’s French Open first round and taking a set off of Rafael Nadal in the Round of 16 told me all I needed to know of Sock’s ceiling. We’ll see what happens tomorrow when he has to play World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, his next opponent.

John Isner and Donald Young were players who were supposed to not only be at the stage where Sock is now, but surpass that. It hasn’t happened, and probably will never happen. Yesterday, however, Isner and Young were impressive in wins over Vasek Pospisil and Tomas Berdych, respectively.

Isner overcame the partisan crowd rooting on the British Columbia-born Pospisil, defeating him 6-3 in the third after taking a first-set tiebreak. Young came back from 3-5 down in the first set against Berdych, a player who has reached at least the semifinals in each of the four majors in his career. Young, unlike most of his high-profile matches during his career, kept his composure and dug deep, winning a first-set tiebreak 7-5 before winning the second set, 6-3.

It’s possible that none of the three winners yesterday will win another match in the tournament, but this American had some pride bursting out a little while watching his compatriots perform well on a big tennis stage.

Tight-rope Tennis

Walking around the grounds is fun, no matter what score of any match is. But yesterday was at a different level.

It took long into the night, but Tsonga pulled out a wild match against Bautista Agut. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
It took long into the night, but Tsonga pulled out a wild match against Bautista Agut and now takes on Bernard Tomic. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Not only were there tight finishes all day and all night long in singles play, there was drama all over in the doubles – and from people who you might not expect in providing such doubles drama. During this Wawrinka-Kyrgios match on Court Central, most of the crowd noise on the grounds was coming from the adjacent court, where Rafael Nadal, who played singles earlier in the day and defeated Sergiy Stakhovsky, was part of a thrilling finish in doubles with partner Fernando Versadco against the No. 8 seed, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hughes Herbert. Nadal and Versadco won the third-set super tie break, 10-4, after the teams split a couple of tiebreaks in the first two sets. Nadal’s longtime rival, Novak Djokovic, also participated in doubles, also participated with a fellow countryman (Janko Tipsarevic) and also was part of a doubles victory in a third-set super tie break (10-3).

To go along with the Sock-Dimitrov ending, two other singles matches went deep into the third set. We watched, in person, Gilles Muller take out Gael Monfils in a third-set tiebreak, while we heard the overwhelming noise from Court Banque Nationale when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga completed his comeback to defeat Roberto Bautista Agut, 5-6, 7-6 (6), 7-5. Tsonga, last year’s champion in Toronto, was more than buoyed by the raucous French-Canadian crowd deep into the night to pull out the win. Man, that was a fun night!

In The End, It’s JUST Tennis

I had one of the most interesting, enlightening, eye-opening and intimate conversations I’ve ever had last night. No, it didn’t involve tennis.

While in the media dining room, I ended up sitting at a table with Louise Michaud, Field Producer/Director at RDS, the French-Canadian equivalent of ESPN, and she told me of her amazing story of her challenging upbringing, and how that helped to mold her into the person she has become, being one of the highest-ranking women in television in Canada.

There wasn’t a topic that we didn’t talk about in our two hours together over plates of chicken and meat pasta; from sexism in broadcast media, the influence that our parents had in our lives, to the literary classic “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. There were laughs, especially when ebullient cameraman Christian Champagne was also part of the conversation. (By the way, Christian is not just a cameraman; he’s a rock star. He’s essentially rubbed elbows with almost all of hockey’s greatest stars, as well as some of rock and country music’s biggest names!)

If someone had told me before I came up to Montréal that I would have such a pleasant exchange and deep conversations with people in an area of the world where I knew almost NO ONE prior to my arrival, I would have laughed in your face. But thank goodness that actually has been the case, because all the laughing was done by Louise, Christian and myself!

Montréal is quickly becoming the city that keeps on giving…and smiling!

[Cover photo (Fernando Verdasco & Rafael Nadal) courtesy of Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images North America]

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