Sock scents redemption in Auckland Classic tennis
American fourth seed Jack Sock reached the final of the ATP Auckland Classic on Friday, earning a chance to make amends for a disappointing loss in last year's decider.
Sock beat compatriot Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-3 to set up a clash against Portugal's Joao Sousa, who brushed aside Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-1, 7-5 in his semi-final.
Sock made the Auckland final last year but was forced to retire due to a bout of flu and concede the title to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut.
The world number 23 said he was relishing the prospect of a centre court title battle at the Australian Open warm-up tournament.
"I enjoy being out here, I love playing in front of crowds, I love being on big stages, it should be a fun match," he said.
"It'd be great to take a title going into the big tournament next week."
Sock lost his only previous meeting with Sousa at the Masters in Madrid last year.
He faced a tough task against Johnson, with the pair going toe-to-toe for much of the first set until Sock finally seized a break in the ninth game.
Another followed early in the second and Sock never looked back.
Baghdatis, seeded eighth, had looked sharp in his previous Auckland matches but made a disastrous start against Sousa.
He went down a break in his first service game, then committed three double faults on his next as his opponent raced to a 5-0 lead.
The crowd erupted when he finally got on the board but Sousa remained clinical and took the first set in just 24 minutes.
The former Australian Open finalist's fighting qualities finally emerged in the second set but Baghdatis was unable to rattle Sousa, who comfortably held serve and continued to press.
The Portuguese world number 44 brought up three match points and sealed the win with an ace, maintaining his record of not dropping a set in the tournament.
"I'm improving every game... I played a solid match, very, very aggressive," Sousa said.
"I know Marcos is tough player to beat so I'm very happy with this victory."
© 2017 AFP