World Tour Finals preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Goffin

Rafael Nadal and David Goffin will be facing each other for the third time in their careers when they wrap up the first two days of round-robin competition at the World Tour Finals on Monday night. Nadal has won both of their previous meetings; 6-3, 6-1 in this season’s Monte-Carlo semifinals and 7-6(3), 6-2 in the Madrid quarters.

For exactly two reasons, Goffin may have a better a chance in this one. First, it is on an indoor hard court instead of on clay. Second, Nadal is likely less than 100 percent due to a knee injury.

That being said, Goffin has dealt with physical problems of his own throughout the second half of 2017. The eighth-ranked Belgian suffered an ankle injury in the third round of the French Open, missed the grass-court swing, and did not post another strong result until reaching round four of the U.S. Open–where a knee issue hobbled him during a straight-set loss to Andrey Rublev. Goffin, though, is an impressive 17-5 this fall with back-to-back titles in Shenzhen and Tokyo.

Few players have a better record this season than Goffin (54-22), but Nadal’s 67-10 mark has helped him clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking heading into London. The Spaniard took all suspense out of that equation when he beat Hyeon Chung in his first match at the Paris Masters. Nadal held off Pablo Cuevas in three sets one day later but then withdrew with his knee problem prior to a scheduled quarterfinal contest against Filip Krajinovic.

With more than a week off before getting things started at the O2 Arena, Nadal is reportedly good to go.

“I hope (I am ready),” Nadal said in between practice sessions in London. “And if I didn’t believe I can be ready, I wouldn’t be here. I’m working every day, practicing well and just trying to be ready for the action…. Being here is an important thing, but for me the most important thing is everything that happened to me this year, the tournaments, competing almost every week with a very competitive level of tennis; being healthy until Paris.”

Goffin is here for the second time after playing one match as a World Tour Finals alternate in 2016, when he replaced Gael Monfils and got blown out by Novak Djokovic 6-1, 6-2. The underdog will be much more competitive on Monday, but another loss is forthcoming if Nadal is close to 100 percent.

Pick: Nadal in 2

87 Comments on World Tour Finals preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Goffin

  1. 7 DFs from Goffin, most of them at crucial moments. Amazing that Nadal will probably win this set, but also testament to his incredible will to win and never say die attitude.

  2. Vamos Rafa! One set apiece.

    Why Rafa is so stingy; why can’t he play like that last service game before the TB more often? Why save such play until he’s facing MPs? Don’t understand his logic.

    • He seems to be playing very nervous or the knee is probably boring him there. To be honest, Goffin should have closed the match, glad that with his resilience Rafa found a way to capture the set, despite playing poorly. I hope he can win this now.
      Vamos Rafa 💪💪💪

    • Could say the same about Goffin: why, when he has an advantage (including match points!) does he play so tenatively? Why does he double fault at such crucial moments? Nadal has definitely not been the better player so far but he has been far more clutch.

  3. What a fighting spirit, a brave heart, unbelievable Nadal! He is obviously playing with pain but still fighting! He brings tears in my eyes! What a champion he is!

    Rafa you truly are the best!

  4. Anyone who thinks he will pull out after one round (unless he is injured) does not understand Rafa’s nature. True he is tired and jaded but there’s no way he would’ve taken to the court if he didn’t intend to fight till the end. Besides the RR format – not to mention the complicated scoring system – makes it impossible to predict who will make it to the final in advance.

        • Looks like he will pull out. I guess he’s testing his knee in this first match, but it’s obvious he couldn’t serve well, and the serve is crucial playing on this court. The way he waved to the fans while leaving the court, it’s like waving them goodbye. I think he’ll make his announcement soon.

  5. Rafa is obviously playing with pain! His painful grimacing, the commentator kept pointing out and they showed replay of his uncomfortable movements! Are we watching the same match?? The commentators said that even Toni Nadal said Rafa should not play at the WTF!
    Rafa’s movement is hampered, he doesn’t put strength in his shots, trying to shorten the points! Rafa is a fighter but I think he shouldn’t have played at all..,
    The commentator just said: Nadal even though playing on one leg managed to break Goffin again”.,,

    • Nadal grimaces all the time on the court. And his movement has been terrific in this match, though less so in the 2nd set. The only objective evidence I can see, apart from generally poor play, is a reduced serve velocity.

      • Sorry, I meant his movement hasn’t been quite as good in the 3rd set.

        I agree, prior to the match, that he shouldn’t have played, based on his recent form and the apparent injury to his knee. But if it’s still injured, why isn’t it taped?

    • Stanley:
      Stop crowing. Nobody is making excuses. Rafa’s compromised movement was there for all to see. And Goffin overcame his own knee problem to battle his way through to the win.

      But the match was riddled with UEs and not a prettty sight to watch..

      It’s not for nothing it is named the W**t T** F**k tournament

  6. Goffin smartly taking advantage of Rafa’s hampered movement and trying to move him around…the commentator saying that during the commercial break they played numerous scenes of Rafa’s painful grimacing and he also stated that he would expect Rafa to withdraw after this match…

    • That’s very sad for us Rafa fans, but the true is that the knee started bothering him more and more at the beginning of the third set. He fought bravely as always but the injury has caught him 😥

    • I did not see the second set. But I did record it. I tuned back in for the third set and that was when I started seeing signs of grimacing and pain from Rafa.

      I really dislike anyone trolling this site with despicable comments about making excuses. Anyone who has eyes could see that Rafa was hampered. I have had it jlbto here with those who refuse to see what is right in front of them.

      Rafa obviously wanted to play. But as the match wore in, he was clearly struggling.

      I have nothing to say to someone who persists in trying to inflame and instigate Rafa fans by saying things that are simply untrue.

      My only concern now is for Rafa. I hope he rests his knee and gets better. He gave it a try and the knee just is not fully healed.

      I am proud of Rafa for fighting so hard and through the pain. For the record I sound never stoop so low as to trash Fed and act like he was fine if he was injured. He deserves more respect than that.

      So does Rafa!

      • You said it all Nny. Rafa’s told his box during changeover: “I can’t anymore”. Imagine how unbearable was the pain that our champion was feeling given that sentence. Now he’s going home, taking a good rest and preparing himself to be ready for a great season next year.
        For those who said Rafa was fully fit, take a look at this pictures.

        https://mobile.twitter.com/genny_ss/status/930200386408996865/photo/1
        https://mobile.twitter.com/genny_ss/status/930200386408996865/photo/2
        https://mobile.twitter.com/genny_ss/status/930200386408996865/photo/3
        https://mobile.twitter.com/genny_ss/status/930200386408996865/photo/4

        • Gaviria,

          That first picture was when I knew just how much pain Rafa was in. For him to show it like that, you know it was bad.

          I did not know that he told his box that he can’t take it anymore.

          He really fought like a champion.

          It’s great having a new Rafa fan here to share the agony and the ecstasy of being a Rafa fan!
          😀

          • I’m so grateful for your words Nny. Having the pleasure and the enormous privilege of being a fan of Rafa has been an experience for which I have no words, a great whirlwind of emotions. With his war spirit and tremendous passion for the game, he has been able to come back off so many injuries,either physical or pshycological, and give us so many joys, which makes everything very emotional for us, his fans. Certainly I will never admire so much a sportsman as I admire him, he always has been such a great source of inspiration on so many levels. The day of his retirement(hope it’s far away) will be one of the saddest days in the history of sport without any doubt.
            You can not imagine how happy I am because you mentioned me Nny. After all, you, lucky and vamosrafa are my favorite posters. Happy to be part of the Rafa clan here at the Grandstand 😊

            • Gaviria,

              Thanks for the heads up in the other topic thread about your response!

              You are so gracious and kind! It really is a privilege to be a Rafa fan! He is an exceptional person and athlete. He has come back so many times from injuries. He has never lost the passion for the game.

              I cannot imagine what it will be like when he finally hangs up his racket. It will leave a huge void in my life. But we have been given so much. I guess we can’t be greedy. It can’t last forever. It’s been just an amazing ride.

              I have often spoke of Bjorn Borg as my first tennis love. He walked away at the age of 26 and broke my heart. I never thought I would find another great tennis love. But I did the first time I saw Rafa. I knew it immediately. He was the one.

              I have so much admiration for Rafa. But there will be no replacing him. That’s why I try to enjoy every great victory. I want to stay in the moment.

              It’s been special and we are so lucky!

              It’s great having you here!
              🤗

  7. Congrats to D. Goffin, woooohooo!
    Yeah baby!
    💪💪💪!

    Rafa really played well, congrats to him as well, he is a fighter but still woooooohoooo!

    • Native if I can give you a hug I will, it will be a big hug, don’t worry about a thing OK, Rafa will be fine.

      He can still qualify from his group, he can do it.

      Vamos Rafa!

    • That was so gracious from Rafa! A class act all the way! He focused on the good things that happened this season. He has such a good heart.

      I wish it could have ended differently for Rafa. I know he wanted to at least try to play. But he really is extraordinary in dealing with disappointments.

      Rest well Rafa! You have given us precious memories, historic victories and so much happiness!

      Come back healthy in 2018!
      😍

      • Rafa is amazing. Never loses perspective, never forgets his good manners and never, ever treats a person like a functionary. Always “grateful to the life” and knows that “life can’t always be perfect”.

  8. See, Rafa has made his announcement that he’s withdrawing from the tournament; he said it’s the end to his season.

    Rest and recovers well Rafa, and comes back fully fit for 2018; not forgetting pick and choose your tournaments wisely, plays a well planned schedule and please no more overplaying!

    • He is sweet, I wish him the best and I hope recovers fully.

      Merry Christmas to him and to all in advance.

      If he wasn’t fit, why did he play?
      I don’t like this kind of things, it makes the victory of another awesome guy( D. Goffin) look weak.

  9. Tonight was yet another testament to the unbelievable determination of Rafa. The guy was grimacing in pain through much of the match, and was on the verge of losing multiple times, and still never waivered from his determination to win.

    I can’t help but feel a little concerned for Rafa going forward… How much of a lasting effect is all the strain he put on that tendon this season going to have on him going forward? Hopefully the tendinitis is such that, as long as he takes multiple weeks off, it doesn’t flair up again for a long time once he returns from that long break. I just worry that he could get into a scenario where, even if he takes a month long break or however long, he is only able to play competitively for a week or two at a time before the pain becomes too much again.

    Yes, he was able to be fine through most of the season this year, but I just don’t see how a condition like he has won’t get worse as he gets older and puts more strain on that knee. I worry that he will end up in a situation similar to Andre Agassi at the end of his career where he has to get cortisone shots (or whatever the stuff is called) just to take the court.

    One thing that I don’t have any doubt about is that his knee should at least be fine for those 2 weeks in Australia. It could be that his knee will be totally fine for next season as long as he truly rests it for the next couple months. Who knows? It’s just hard not to worry for him as his knee problems are only guaranteed to get worse as time goes on. I just hope that it doesn’t start really taking a serious toll for a long time.

    • End of the season knee problems are nothing new for Rafa. He’s had to deal with them since at least 2008. It’s the main reason he missed so many YEC’s. I’ve been concerned the whole year. They crop up when he wins a lot. Sort of like Roger’s back problems. Play too much and he starts hurting. Obviously he should not have attempted to play the YEC, but I love him for trying – and trying to win. I don’t think champions err on the side of caution.

    • Not to worry, Rafa was able to play through the whole season without injury not because of rest, but SCT. If I’m not wrong, he had it at every year end from 2013 onwards. The SCT enabled him to live his normal daily life without pain in his movements; it’s only when he plays tennis matches that he will experience pain, mostly bearable ones unless it gets serious like in this tournament when he felt he won’t be able to continue.

      Sportsmen/women would often experience pain because they subjected their bodies, muscles, joints etc to extreme pressure during competition week after week and year after year. I believe there may be others doing the SCT to sustain or maintain their bodies to be ready for competition and the daily/weekly grinds.

  10. Rafa came to London to be honored his ATP World Tour No 1 Trophy! Naturally he showed up for one match to treat his fans and all the people who came to watch him play! Rafa would’ve withdrawn even if he won today…

    Rafa is a role model and we are so lucky to be his fans! He is well deserved No1 and he won two GSs this year, his amazing LaDecima! So happy for him!

    Rafa needs rest and recovery! He will be back! Love you, Champ! You brought so much joy to all of us!

    Vamos Rafa!

  11. Not the ending to the season Nadal deserved. At least he went out fighting in a match he almost certainly would have won healthy. Get well Rafa!! We need another Fedal showdown at the AO!! 🙂💪🏼

  12. As I said before, I don’t think Rafa should have played this tournament, and I’m a bit surprised that he did. Really don’t see the point of playing one match, and if he had withdrawn beforehand it would have given someone else a chance to play.

    Still, congrats on a great season to Rafa, and I hope to see him back to full health in the new year.

    • Joe, someone else, who’s PCB has the chance to play; he’s the first alternate here! It’s not as if Rafa has deprived another player a chance to play, when it’s still PCB next in line (at no. 9 to qualify).

      What’s your complaint about? Rafa is here to receive his YE no.1 award; he also wants to play as he said he has been skipping too many WTFs due to injury, he doesn’t want to skip another.

      • The point of playing tournaments, for top champions, is to win the tournament. Rafa himself has said so before. In his last two tournaments, I don’t think Nadal entered to win the tournament.

        In Paris, I think he entered to gain enough points to secure world #1, something both he and Federer said they wouldn’t do. Still, fair enough. He earned it, and I certainly don’t fault him for that. He thought he had a good chance, won a couple matches, and then realized he should pull out because of injury.

        However, as I and many others have said (both Rafa and Fed fans), there was no good reason to play WTF. Everyone knew his knee was injured, based on his recent form and the fact that he pulled out of Paris for that very reason. He already had YE#1 wrapped up, he had no real chance of winning the tournament, and he had a decent chance of making his injury worse. So why play? My view is that he shouldn’t have.

        Injury is always a good reason not to play, regardless of how many times one has had to skip a tournament due to injury before.

        • In all sports, athlete’s try to play with injury before they know how bad it is in competition.

          Nothing new.

          Why did Federer lose in a 250 against a Donkey?

          No difference.

          • That’s true, though the structure of tennis (tournaments) may be a relevant difference to other sports. In any case, I said I don’t fault Nadal for using that reasoning in Paris. But I think he and his team knew that the knee wouldn’t hold up in London.

            Not sure how Federer’s case is relevant. Do you think he lost on purpose to Donskoy to get out of the tournament? He had match points and has won that tournament many times before.

            • Different how? All sports are on a continuum and all elite athletes tend to push themselves. Nadal is no different.

              I don’t think his team knew that at all. Why would he play if they knew that??? Would be stupid.

              Federer wasn’t relevant until you brought him into it.

              You said Rafa and Federer said they would never do “that” (like MeatLoaf) yet Federer looked like he had no interest vs Donskoy to the point that one might say him and his team knew he wasn’t going to win the tournament.

              So you say that you don’t blame Rafa. For what exactly? In other words, what’s the difference between blaming him and criticizing him?

              Seems contradictory to me.

            • “You said Rafa and Federer said they would never do “that” (like MeatLoaf)” LOL. Any good theories on what MeatLoaf were referring to?

              I was referring to chasing points for #1. But maybe I’m wrong. And maybe you’re right that there is no important difference between tennis and other sports in this regard. Michael Jordan took to the court for game 7 with the flu (so they say), and back in the 80s a guy played in the Super Bowl with a broken leg.

              I can’t remember the Fed-Donskoy match well enough to draw any conclusions. I guess the fact that he held match points and took it to a 3rd set tie-break suggests to me that he was trying to win the match.

              I can understand why Rafa wanted to play London. I just think it was the wrong decision, based on evidence leading up to the match. If I’m criticizing him for anything, I guess it’s entering the tournament knowing that he would likely only play one match.

            • Um, “pleasuring” I’m guessing.

              Not sure they said that exactly but they’ve both said they wouldn’t play tournaments if they didn’t think they would have good chances to win. Federer doubled down to the extreme on that and dropped out of the WTF final vs Djokovic on record as saying not that he defaulted because he couldn’t play, but because he didn’t think he could win (regardless of the fans who paid top dollar to see the final).

              And I didn’t say it was the same. I asked you it may be a relevant difference.

              You can hold match points without wanting to win a match – could be why he didn’t convert.

              You assume he knew that that was likely. So you are criticizing him for something you assume he knew and I expect that he knew no such thing and that he wouldn’t know until he pushed it in competition, just like many other elite athletes in any other sport, particularly when it’s one with such thin competition that he’s never won before.

              Quite understandable in my opinion.

            • I always thought Fed should have played that WTF final. (Actually, Stan should have played it if he hadn’t choked the SF away).

            • I think just about EVERYBODY but Federer thought he should have played that final.

              Stan is 0-15 vs Fed on hc.

              He’s a choke vs Fed unless it’s clay, Fed’s worst surfrace.

  13. I’m curious to know…. What would happen if both Rafa and Goffin withdraw? Do they have a second alternate waiting in the wings? Can they bring in DelPo??

  14. I really don’t know what some are ranting about, that Rafa deprived another player of qualifying? It would still be PCB who’s no. 9 in line where qualifying for the WTF is concerned.

    Some hope that Delpo could play but too bad Delpo didn’t qualify and didn’t make it to no.9 so no, he’s not playing whether he’s here or not because PCB is the first alternate and would take Rafa’s place now that Rafa withdraws.

    • I just wish Delpo had beaten Isner in Paris. It was just one match too much for him, unfortunately. He already had to play so much tennis to even get to that last match. It’s too bad he didn’t play better earlier in the season. As in-form as he was toward the end, unfortunately for him you need to play well in more than just the last two months of the season to realistically make it to London…

      • Delpo after a good off season and recovery time should be ready to go next season. I think he will do some damage at AO next year. I also think that Dimi, Sasha and Goffin will also do well next year. I’m waiting to see how far Cilic can go here before saying how I see his early next season may turn out.

        I doubt Djoko and co. can do much damage at AO as it’s still too early in the season. I even doubt Fedal could repeat what they had done at AO this season. Fed will be another year older and Dimi and Co more experienced, after this WTF when they’ll have some belief in themselves.

        Rafa always has problems at AO; I feel his problem is that he tends to grind at AO. Contrast that to USO, it’s not difficult to see that Rafa tends to play more aggressive tennis there at the USO, hence he won three titles out of four finals.

        I do feel it’s ingrained into Rafa that as he starts a season physically fresh, he tends to resort to grinding out matches, seeking to grind down opponents by outlasting them physically. As he progresses through the season, he will start feeling the physical strain and thus will then play more offensive tennis than normal.

        Rafa was at his peak during AO2009, his best performance at the AO so far, didn’t need to grind until the SF. His next best was at AO2014, playing very well despite a palm blister to reach the final but was hampered by a back injury. Both times he was at no.1.

        The rest of his AO events, he was grinding most of the times when facing the top ten opponents or red hot ones. I think if Rafa doesn’t make an effort to change this pattern of play, he may face another disappointment next AO, my opinion.

    • 99% of fans would rather watch Rafa try than any lucky loser/alternate.

      WTF is a showcase. That’s why they have alternates on standby as opposed to ANY. OTHER. ATP. TOURNAMENT.

      Indoor tennis is a different sport IMO. Ball plays completely different.

    • Doesn’t matter, it’s not a joke for trying. He said it himself, he had missed it so many times that he didn’t want to miss this one. I respect his decision, and his will to win was really something to behold, even if he were to win this match, he said he would still withdraw, as couldn’t continue playing like this with the pain.

      • I don’t think it was a joke to Rafa to come and play in London. Nobody knows how he feels and what is in his mind and heart. He obviously wanted to try to play. He’s earned that by being #1 and finishing at the top.

        It kind of galls me when anyone thinks they know more than the player.

        I think it was important enough to Rafa to make the effort. He gave it his best and realized that he would not be able to continue to play. If that gives him some peace of mind, then that’s fine with me.

        • Rafa is very proud of having played the entire season: he detailed it. All 4 slams, all the masters. I guess he wanted to truly complete it by playing at the YEC. Also, Rafa does not truly know how well he will be able to play until he’s on court and in the match. He depends on the “narcotic” of competition to dull the pain. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

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