Goffin To Face Federer In SFs
Four days after beating World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, the seventh seed upset No. 4 Dominic Thiem on Friday 6-4, 6-1 in only 72 minutes. Now the Belgian first-year qualifier will play six-time champion Roger Federer on Saturday for a place in the title match of the Nitto ATP Finals.
“I have nothing to lose,” Goffin said. “He's playing so well.”
The 26-year-old became the fourth and final player to reach the semi-finals of the season finale. Goffin finished second in Group Pete Sampras, behind group winner Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Federer won Group Boris Becker, and American Jack Sock reached the semi-finals on Thursday night by beating Alexander Zverev.
It's the first time since 2008 that three players – Goffin, Dimitrov and Sock – are appearing in the semi-finals of the season finale for the first time. Nine years ago, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Gilles Simon also reached the semi-finals for the first time.
Goffin has never beaten Federer in their six-match FedEx ATP Head2Head. They most recently played last month in the semi-finals of the Swiss Indoors Basel. Federer won 6-1, 6-2 en route to his eighth Basel title.
“I've never found a key to beat Roger. Honestly, I don't know what to do tomorrow. But I'm going to try something, something different, something that I've never done in the past. I will try to do my best to play a better match than in Basel,” Goffin said.
Goffin has checked off a number of firsts this season, and especially this week at The O2 in London. No Belgian singles player had ever qualified for the prestigious season-ending championships, and Goffin had been 0-4 during his career against players ranked No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
But on Monday, Goffin prevailed past Nadal to start 1-0 in London. He fell to Grigor Dimitrov on Wednesday but Goffin, who's won two ATP World Tour titles this year, rebounded well on Friday afternoon.
After a slow start, the right-hander took 12 of the final 14 games to improve to 7-3 against Thiem in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry. Goffin seized the big points against Thiem, who was trying to become the first Austrian to reach the semi-finals, a feat countryman and former World No. 1 Thomas Muster could not achieve.
“I had a very, very good start obviously. Again, some very bad mistakes. I let him back into the game. Somehow after the 3-0, I lost it until the end,” Thiem said.
Goffin won five of his seven break points, while Thiem finished one for six in the key area. Thiem also struck 27 unforced errors, including six double faults, compared to only 11 winners.
“I was a little bit surprised how well he started the match. He was moving well. He used his slice a little bit. He changed the pace. He was good. He started to play well,” Goffin said.
“But I knew that I have found solutions in the past. I knew with my return I can be really aggressive... I knew it was the key to come back. As soon as I came back at 3-all with a good service game, I knew that he was struggling a little bit with his groundstrokes. He was hitting too hard maybe a little bit. He lost his timing in his backhands. He started to think about how to hit the ball.”