Goffin Steps Up Finals Bid, Plays Gasquet In Tokyo QFs

Johnson reaches Tokyo quarter-finals for second time

David Goffin moved into contention for a spot at next month’s Nitto ATP Finals on Thursday at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2017.

The Belgian was made to fight and draw on his big-match experience in a thrilling 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(1) victory over two hours and 20 minutes. It extended his winning streak to six matches, taking in last week’s run to his third ATP World Tour title at the Shenzhen Open (d. Dolgopolov).

Australian qualifier Ebden was solid on serve to win the first five games of the pair’s third tour-level meeting, before Goffin broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set. Last year’s finalist opened up a 5-3 lead before World No. 103 Ebden battled to draw level, only to lose his serve at 5-5. In the decider, Goffin gained a 5-2 advantage, only to see Ebden win four straight games, but did enough for his 30th hard-court match win of 2017.

“The match was really tough and I was really surprised how he played right from the start," said Goffin. "He was really solid from the baseline and didn’t miss a lot. It wasn’t easy to hit winners, because of the balls and on-court temperature tonight. At the end I fought with myself and gained breaks in the second and third sets, but it wasn’t enough. At the end I’m happy, because it was a tough battle that I won.”

As a result of reaching the Tokyo quarter-finals (6-1 tournament record), Goffin moves up one spot to No. 12 in the Emirates ATP Race To London, but remains 105 points behind No. 10-ranked American Sam Querrey (2,435 points), who currently sits in the final qualification berth. Goffin is now 46-19 on the year and is seeking his first qualification at the season finale, to be held at The O2 in London from 12-19 November.

He will next meet France’s Richard Gasquet, who saved two break points in his first service game and won nine of the first 10 games before Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei fought back. Gasquet, the 2007 runner-up, ultimately won 6-3, 7-6(5) in 89 minutes.

American Steve Johnson, buoyed with confidence following his career-best win over World No. 7 Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, was super consistent and solid on serve — winning 25 of his 27 first-service points — to beat last week’s Shenzhen Open finalist, Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-2, 6-4.

Johnson, who is through to the Tokyo quarter-finals for the second time (also 2014, on his tournament debut), is now 28-17 on the season that includes his second ATP World Tour title at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship (d. Bellucci). He will next play eighth-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the last eight at the Ariake Colosseum.

Japan’s Yuichi Sugita reached the Tokyo quarter-finals for the first time when Canadian third seed and three-time former finalist Milos Raonic retired due to a right calf injury after one game. Raonic had returned this week after a seven-week absence, following left wrist surgery in late August, and will now fly home. Sugita, now 20-11 on a career-best year that includes the Antalya Open crown, will face France’s Adrian Mannarino on Friday.

Raonic told ATPWorldTour.com, "I picked up a strain to the calf. It’s hard to know the extent of it, I’ll have to wait because it’s too soon to have an exact evaluation. It happened when the score was deuce, I felt a sharp pain at the back of my leg. I will head home now and get medical attention.

“It’s been a difficult and frustrating year, I obviously wish I could have focused on tennis more rather than chasing help all the time. My wrist isn’t a concern, because the process was a cleaning and not a structural change. It was kind of a growth that happened over time. Therefore, it was very simple and something that needed the swelling to go down.”

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