Live-Streaming the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships

The U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships is sort of a weird tennis tournament, and one of my favorites. It sounds prestigious, but it isn't, really — it's the lowest level of ATP main tour events (called "250" events, as opposed to 500, 1000, and grand slam events), but strangely, it is the only non-major ATP event that is broadcast on the ESPN family of networks instead of The Tennis Channel and Bally Sports. I don't know why this is.

Today, I will be covering the first round match between Jack Sock and Tomas Machac.

Maybe you remember Jack Sock. The 30-year-old American rose to #8 in the world in 2017 and then, thanks to injuries and loss of form, dropped hundreds of spots in the ATP rankings. Now, he is here as a wild card (basically tennis's version of a sponsor's exemption) and is ranked #166 in the world.

He takes on Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic. Machac is 22 and ranked #138 in the world, and got into the main draw here via the qualifying tournament. The winner will take on Marcos Giron in the second round. Sock is about a 3-to-1 underdog.

6:06 PM CDT: One of the ESPN announcers basically criticized Sock for taking a wild card here, saying he should instead build his ranking back up by playing in ATP Challenger Tour events (i.e., the minor leagues of tennis). It's a bizarre criticism, because a) he can get more ranking points in main tour events, and b) he's played 1 Challenger tournament so far this year and 10 last year, so it's not like he thinks he's too good for Challengers.

6:10: The commentator twice more has a go at Sock for taking this wild card. Clearly, he has an axe to grind with this.

6:16: Sock is broken in his first service game, thanks in part to a double fault.

6:18: Sock used to be sponsored by Nike for clothing, but is now sporting a brand whose logo I don't recognize. Machac is Nike.

6:19: Machac consolidates his break. 2-0.

6:26: Sock is broken again. He's all out of sorts, particularly his service game. The whirling wind isn't helping.

6:34: Sock finally wins a game, but is down 4-1. A long serve by Machac caught Sock's racquet awkwardly, sending the ball careening into a spectator. She's okay and gets a hug from Sock.

6:35: My crack research during the changeover indicates that Sock's new clothing sponsor is Lululemon. I'm pretty sure the commentator who is taking exception to Sock's scheduling choices is Jimmy Arias.

6:45: Machac LEAPS IN THE AIR to bash a forehand at the net for the winner, don't remember the last time I've seen a tennis player jump like that. Machac wins the first set, 6-2.

6:53: Sock holds his first service game of the second set. Is he coming back?

6:55: Sock was the champ here in 2015 and the runner-up in 2016, so Arias' stance that he should have rejected the wild card is even more preposterous than I thought.

7:01: Jack double-faults, goes down 0-30, then rallies to win the game on the heels of 2 straight aces.

7:08: Sock gets his first break chance of the match, but can't convert it. 2-2 in the second set.

7:15: Sock survives his fourth and fifth double faults of the match to hold serve and go up 3-2 in the set.

7:26: It occurs to me that I'm framing this article through a pro-Sock lens, and granted, I do want him to win. But let me switch it up: Machac survives three break points to tie the second set at 3 in a marathon game. He has been incredibly consistent all match, while Sock has been feast or famine.

7:30: Perhaps deflated by losing the previous game, Sock gets broken. It's the first service break of the set. 4-3, Machac.

7:34: Machac consolidates his break with ease and Sock will now serve to stay in the match.

7:36: Sock holds to love but will need to break Machac, which he has not done all match, to stay in this one.

7:41: I think we can all agree that the biggest, most eagerly-anticipating sporting event in the world is the penultimate match of first round of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships, and this year the winner is Tomas Machac, who is therefore a shoo-in for Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year. Thanks for reading.

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