Goffin Scores Breakthrough Win Against Djokovic
Belgian through to Monte-Carlo semi-finals
David Goffin recorded the biggest win of his career on Friday when he broke a 14-match losing streak against the Top 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings with a hard-fought and high-quality 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.
Tenth-seeded Belgian Goffin recovered from a 2-4 deficit in the deciding set and sealed victory on his fifth match point when second seed and two-time former champion Djokovic struck a backhand into the net.
"I don't know why, but the atmosphere on the court was really nice. It was a really special match and the best win of my career,” said Goffin. “It doesn't matter how you played before against [Djokovic]. You just have to do your best and give everything on the court. Maybe once, like today, it goes well.”
Goffin, who leads the ATP World Tour for most match wins (23-7) in 2017, will next face fourth seed and nine-time champion Rafael Nadal or Diego Schwartzman in Saturday’s semi-finals.
"I now have more experience than in the past. I am better able to manage these matches and these victories. I know there's a lot of emotion. You lose a lot of energy in a match like that one,” said Goffin. “Now I feel good and I'm ready to keep going. I think if I play the way I have been, I have my chances and I can stay in the tournament. I'm not saying I'm going to win tomorrow, but I'll be able to give it my all.”
Goffin, who had won one set (2015 Cincinnati) in his previous five meetings against Djokovic, played close to the baseline and delivered first-strike tennis, firing winners when a short ball arose in windy conditions. The Belgian broke serve in the first and fifth games, moving Djokovic around the court to clinch the 30-minute opener.
In the second set, Djokovic took a tumble out wide by the sponsor hoardings when stretching for a forehand in the first point of the second game. After a brief time-out to get the clay off his hands and legs, play resumed.
At 1-1, Djokovic recovered from 15/40 in a 12-point game and won 11 straight points to take a 4-1 advantage. Goffin saved two set points at 2-5 when Djokovic snatched at returns, but the Serbian held to 30 in the next game when Goffin hit a forehand wide.
Djokovic took control in the early stages of the deciding set with good length on his service returns, enabling him to build pressure and convert a third break point opportunity in the opening game. He could have led 3-0, but squandered two chances as Goffin continued to press. At 3-2, Djokovic held his nerve to save five break points in a 20-minute game, but Goffin then won three straight games for a 5-4 advantage. "It's just unfortunate I missed my chances in the third set to go up a double break afterwards," said Djokovic afterwards.
Goffin grew in confidence and Djokovic began to feel the pressure. Serving at 5-6, Djokovic saved matches points at 15/40 (ace), 30/40 (Goffin backhand into the net) and two advantage points (Djokovic backhand winner and a Goffin backhand long). In the 14th point of the game, Djokovic got a time violation for delaying his first delivery. Sixty seconds later, a lengthy rally saw Djokovic strike a backhand into the net to end the two-hour and 38-minute clash.
"I started slowly probably because I played two long matches," said Djokovic. "But I thought as the match progressed I was feeling okay. You know, I was physically fine. We had a lot of exchanges, a lot of rallies. David is playing very quick. He's a fast player. I thought I played very, very well for a set and a half, from the start of the second set. Then that unfortunate game when I dropped my serve, the match turned around. I had my chances, I definitely did. I just didn't use them."
World No. 13 Goffin is now 1-14 lifetime against the Top 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.