Coming in to this match, both players were deemed to be in good form, with Rafael Nadal seemingly putting his bad start to the season behind him and advancing to the 4th round without dropping a set. Jack Sock had been playing the tennis of his life, beating the number 10 seed Grigor Dimitrov in the first round before backing up his win to reach this 4th round encounter with Nadal.
With Nadal winning the coin toss and electing to receive, Sock was put under pressure immediately and faced double break point; Nadal seized his first opportunity and broke with a netted backhand before consolidating to lead 2-0. Nadal was by far the dominant player in this set, and soon broke for a second time with another netted backhand from Sock. Sock however didn’t lose hope, and retrieved one of the breaks with a wild backhand from Nadal before consolidating to 15. Both men held again and Nadal kept it on serve with a scorching cross court forehand winner, 5-3. At this point Sock faltered again on his own serve, producing two break/set points for Nadal. After saving these and another break point, Sock could do little more than observe as Nadal played an amazing pass and took the set 6-3 in 42 minutes.
Nadal continued to be dictating play to begin the second set, holding to love and breaking to 15 to lead 2-0 with a forehand put wide from Sock. He was tested on his own serve in the following game, but soon held and further went on to ruin Sock’s hopes for the set by breaking to lead 4-0 with a stunning backhand lob off an attacking forehand from the American. He went on to lead 5-0 and imposed himself on Sock’s next service game, but the underdog managed to hold with some strong forehands to avoid a bagel set. Nadal served out the set in 31 minutes, 6-1.
Sock began the third set playing more confidently than in the previous two, holding to love to open. The players traded breaks early in the set to equal it at 3 games all, before Nadal broke to lead 4-3 and confidently consolidated, seemingly having a decisive hold over the match. Sock held again, before forcing a series of errors from Nadal as the 9-time champion tried to serve out the match, ending in a forehand long to give Sock the break back. Sock scraped a hold to go up 6-5 in an extended game, before executing some incredible forehands down the line to take the set 7-5.
The 4th set began with Sock again tested on serve, finally holding in a game that went to deuce before Nadal held and created 3 break point chances for himself on Sock’s serve. Sock managed to save these but couldn’t keep it up as Nadal took the game on his 4th break point with a cross court backhand winner, a running fist pump and a yell of “Vamos!”. Sock wasn’t going to go out without a fight, however, and promptly created 3 break back points for himself in the next game – one was saved with a missed Sock forehand and the second saved with a stunning second serve ace out wide, which had even big server Nick Kyrgios mouthing “Wow” from his seat in the crowd. The last break point chance disappeared for Sock as Nadal used his signature one-two punch of serve out wide and forehand in the opposite direction to stamp it out, and he held with a cross court forehand. Both men held once more to reach 4-2, where Nadal broke a rather dejected looking Sock once more with some clever play, eventually drawing out the error from the American. Nadal had no trouble serving out the match on his second attempt, taking the win with an attacking forehand, 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 in 2 hours and 52 minutes.
The match everyone has been waiting for is next for Nadal; his quarterfinal against nemesis Novak Djokovic. It’s incredibly tough to pick a favourite for that match, with Djokovic’s form being the better of the pair but Nadal having such and incredible history at Roland Garros (including his 6-0 record over Djokovic there) and the ability to always step up when it matters on Philippe Chatrier. One thing is for sure; it’s not a match to miss.