Thiem & Goffin Battle For Final SF Spot
Six days. Nine players. 24 singles matches by Friday’s end. And the fourth spot in the semi-finals of the season finale will come down to one match in Group Pete Sampras between fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem and seventh-seeded David Goffin on Friday afternoon.
There will be no counting sets or games involved — the winner moves on, and the loser goes home.
Both Thiem and Goffin have one victory each at this Nitto ATP Finals, and the winner between them will earn a semi-final clash against second-seeded Roger Federer, who finished with a perfect record in round-robin play on Thursday.
Perhaps that is why Thiem was so excited after his victory on Wednesday evening against Pablo Carreno Busta.
“I'm very happy and pleased that I get the chance to play for the semi-finals on Friday,” Thiem said. “We had some big, important matches in the past. Also in the deep rounds of [Grand] Slams. This one's going to be another one. We know each other very well. He played a very good match here, one very bad match. I don't know what to expect. I'm hoping that it's going to be a tough match, and I'm trying everything to go through to the semis.”
It certainly won’t be easy for Thiem, and the tough match he hopes for is likely what he is going to get. Goffin, who lost against Grigor Dimitrov in 74 minutes on Wednesday, leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 6-3, while also coming out on top of both meetings this season. The Belgian also leads the series 3-1 on hard courts, with his only loss coming in the form of a retirement while trailing 1-5 two years ago in Marseille.
Goffin has won two of three against his friend at Grand Slams, with both meetings coming on hard courts at the Australian Open the past two seasons. All three of their matchups at majors have also gone to four sets. There will be no surprises on the court at The O2.
“I know him really well,” Goffin said. “I practice really often with Dominic. I have already an idea with the tactics against him because I played so many times against him. We played a lot of good matches against each other. It's not going to be easy.”
Thiem says that Goffin, whom he first met 13 years ago, even spent some of this past pre-season with him preparing for what has been a banner campaign for both players. That also means that he’s plenty aware of how the Belgian can trouble him.
“He's taking the balls very early,” Thiem said. “He's giving me not much time. Especially on this little bit faster surface, it's tough for me. So I’ll try to be the first to hurt him and not the other way around.”
If Goffin wins this match, he will become one of three debutants to advance to the semi-finals, which has never previously happened at the Nitto ATP Finals. It is already guaranteed that there will be three players who make their final four debuts at the season finale, with Dimitrov, Jack Sock and the winner of this match advancing out of round-robin play. The last time that happened was in 2008 when Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Gilles Simon did it.
There is one person in particular who will pay careful attention to the Thiem-Goffin battle.
“Both great guys, good friends of mine on the tour,” Federer said. “I’m sure I’m going to watch that one tomorrow.”