Goffin, Dimitrov To Square Off For SF Berth
Not content to rest on his laurels, David Goffin knows it is all still to play for at the Nitto ATP Finals on Wednesday after his upset of World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in his opening match. While acknowledging that the Spaniard wasn’t at his physical best, the Belgian’s confidence will be sky-high when he takes on No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov in Group Pete Sampras.
Semi-final berths are up for grabs. Should Goffin back up his defeat of Nadal with a straight-sets result over the Bulgarian, he will automatically qualify. If he prevails in three sets, he will need Pablo Carreno Busta to defeat Dominic Thiem. If Dimitrov wins, regardless of the score, he will qualify for Saturday’s semi-final.
“I have to continue to play like that, to continue to play my game, to stay focused on what I have to do on the court,” Goffin said. “I think I was feeling the ball really well [against Nadal]. Now the next match will be tough. Every match is tough here.
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“It's not because you won the first match that you are safe for the next one, no. You have to restart again, prepare the match as always, and be ready for another big fight.”
While Goffin’s triumph over Nadal made him the first Belgian to defeat a World No. 1, Dimitrov made an impressive start of his own on Monday, when he took down No. 4 seed Dominic Thiem in a tight three-setter.
Dimitrov leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Goffin 3-1, with three of those clashes coming this year. The Bulgarian prevailed in the Australian Open quarter-finals and on home soil in the Sofia final, however Goffin gained revenge in the quarter-finals of Rotterdam’s indoor hard courts at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament. “David has been having a tremendous end of the season, built up a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum,” Dimitrov said.
The Bulgarian started his season with a 16-1 record, including a first ATP World Tour title in 2 ½ years at the Brisbane International and a second Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open. Silverware also followed in Sofia and a first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati (d. Kyrgios). Goffin reached back-to-back finals in Sofia (l. Dimitrov) and Rotterdam (l. to Tsonga) and after returning from a freak ankle injury at Roland Garros, ended a six-match losing run with back-to-back titles at Shenzhen (d. Dolgopolov) and Tokyo (d. Mannarino).
Goffin is the first Belgian to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals. While he played one match in 2016 as an alternate, following Gael Monfils’ withdrawal, this is the first year he qualified outright. Dimitrov is also flying the flag for his nation, as the first Bulgarian to contest the season finale.
“It's not only big for me, I think it's for my whole country, for Bulgaria,” Dimitrov said. “It's great for me to show that everything is possible. You push the boundaries, doesn't matter where you're from, it's all up to you, everything is in your hands. Basically whatever you put in is what you get.
“I think for the people, just to realise that whatever you put your mind to, if you push those boundaries every day, if you work hard, the sky's the limit. You can dream every day.”