David Goffin had chance after chance against Rafael Nadal Monday at the ATP Finals. The Belgian, making his ATP Finals debut, ultimately prevailed over the hobbled Spaniard 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4 for his first win over Rafa.
But Rafa made him work, and made him sweat.
Goffin served for the first set but tossed in two double faults, yet somehow recovered to win the breaker.
In the second, Goffin against served for the match even holding a match point, but he couldn’t pull the trigger on a short forehand.
Not soon after, he then held three more matchpoints with Nadal serving 5-6, 0-40, but again Rafa denied him.
Ultimately, with his knee visibly limiting Nadal’s play, Goffin got a break then another in the third, and after giving one back he finally held on for what he called the best win of his career.
“It’s the best win of my career, for sure, to beat Rafa. But, yeah, I saw that he was struggling a little bit with his movement on the court, and his knee was suffering a little bit,” Goffin said.
“It was tough even if he was not moving 100%. He was hitting the ball really hard. It was not easy. It’s never easy to finish a match, to finish a set against him. Even if I lost four match points in the second, I had no regret. I kept going in the third.”
Nadal was a question mark to participate at the start. He fought hard and after opted to withdraw from the tournament.
“My season is finished. I had the commitment with the event, with the city, with myself. I tried hard. I did the thing that I had to do to try to be ready to play. But I am really not ready to play,” Nadal said.
Nadal will be replaced on Wednesday by countryman Pablo Carreno Busta who will face Dominic Thiem. Meanwhile, Goffin will take on Grigor Dimitrov who won his ATP Finals debut against the Austrian 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.
“It, for me, was just one of those new experiences that I think I’m going to remember for the rest of my life, I think appreciate for the rest of my life,” Dimitrov said. “This is where I always wanted to be at, among the top players, also being able to come through in my first match, it’s only positive.”
With Nadal out, what a chance for Goffin and Dimitrov in the Pete Sampras group. And the win slides Dimitrov past Thiem into the 4th spot in the rankings for the time being.
On Tuesday in the Boris Becker group, the winners from Sunday collide as do the losers.
Roger Federer resumes his bid for a 7th ATP Finals title against Alexander Zverev. The two have split their four career meetings.
“I played him a few times this year now,” Zverev said of Federer. “I played him three times, if you count the Hopman Cup match we played. Obviously, all of them were great matches. Hopefully it can be another one.”
And in a virtual elimination match, Jack Sock takes on Marin Cilic.
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