World Tour Finals preview and prediction: Thiem vs. Goffin

Dominic Thiem and David Goffin will be going head-to-head for a spot in the World Tour Finals semis when the familiar foes face each other again on Friday afternoon.

Goffin is leading the head-to-head series 6-3 at the ATP level and 7-3 overall, including 4-1 on hard courts. Their only completed indoor contest (not counting one first-set retirement by the Belgian) came four years ago in Basel, where Goffin got the job done 7-6(4), 6-3. They have squared off twice in 2017, with Goffin prevailing 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-2 at the Australian Open and 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 in Monte-Carlo.

The latter marked a rare clay-court loss to someone other than Rafael Nadal for Thiem, who won the Rio de Janeiro title, finished runner-up to Nadal in Barcelona and Madrid, and reached the French Open semifinals before falling to the eventual 10-time champion. A typically disastrous second half of the season saw Thiem turn in only a few decent results, one of which was a fourth-round appearance at the U.S. Open–but that ended in an epic collapse against Juan Martin Del Potro from 6-1, 6-2 up.

Goffin’s recent months have progressed in different fashion. His Roland Garros campaign ended abruptly in the form of an ankle injury, but he has been in fine form since his post-Wimbledon return. The world No. 8 advanced to the last 16 in New York, captured back-to-back titles in Shenzhen and Tokyo, and made a run to the Basel semifinals.

Goffin has produced a mixed bag so far in London. He upset a hobbled Nadal 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4 only to get clobbered by Grigor Dimitrov 6-0, 6-2 on Wednesday. Thiem’s two-year history at the O2 Arena has been surprisingly solid–a surprise given how poorly he often fares at other events during the fall swing. He went 1-2 last year, with a three-set loss to Novak Djokovic, and is 1-1 through two matches this week (lost to Dimitrov 6-3, 5-7, 7-5; beat Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 3-6, 6-4).

“I’m very happy and pleased that I get the chance to play for the semifinals on Friday,” Thiem said of his virtual quarterfinal showdown against Goffin. “Not much calculating. The winner [goes] through. We had some big, important matches in the past…in the deep rounds of slams. This one’s going to be another one. We know each other very well. He played a very good match here (against Nadal); one very bad match (against Dimitrov). I don’t know what to expect.”

Not only has Goffin’s form been erratic at the O2 Arena, but he is also a question mark from a physical standpoint. Although he insists that he is–or is close to–100 percent, the seventh seed may not have been moving at his absolute best against Dimitrov. If Thiem can play a smart match by choosing the right times to unleash his backhand, he should advance to the semis.

Pick: Thiem in 3

63 Comments on World Tour Finals preview and prediction: Thiem vs. Goffin

  1. Ricky, or anyone else who can answer this question-

    Did Goffin lose so one-sidedly to Dimitrov just because Dimitrov plays extremely well/Goffin played poorly? Or was Goffin possibly struggling with pain from the injury he got at RG? I didn’t see the match, so I have no idea why Goffin got killed so badly. I am not surprised at all by Dimitrov winning that match, but I am very surprised that Goffin only got 2 games. That’s why I’m curious as to what Goffin’s physical condition was like in that match. Goffin only winning 2 games against the Big 4 guys- that would not be surprising at all. But against Dimitrov? Also, Dimitrov only dropping 2 games against guys OUTSIDE the Top-10 would not be surprising at all, but against Goffin? Something just seems weird about it to me….

    I’d appreciate any insight from anybody on this matter. 🙂

  2. The WTF, really lives up to its name. We see and we saw so many lopsided or one sided matches being played out at the WTFs. It’s supposed to be the best top eight guys competing against each other and yet many of them played horrendously!

    It’s only the big three – Fed, Rafa and Djoko – who played consistently well there esp against the rest of the field. Delpo when he qualified played very well too; I can’t say the same for the others; Murray too sometimes played horrendously.

    • This is one reason why I don’t like this tournament. Players are worn out and exhausted and don’t bring their best.

      The top guys have given us some great matches, but all too often we see something like with Goffin.

      It just feels like this tournament is making the tennis year that much longer.

      • extend the clay court season by a week, extend the grass court season by 3 weeks, including a Masters 1000. Play the US Open in late September instead of late August. Eliminate the entire fall swing. Have the WTFs in late October following a 3 week break after the US Open. Then the off-season is 2 full months even for the WTF participants and 3 full months for everyone else. Amazing schedule.

        • Ricky,

          I like that schedule! I especially like extending the grass court season by three weeks and including a Masters tournament! The grass season is way too short.

          Sounds good to me!
          😀

        • I think they can fit in one Masters on indoor HC (Paris) before the WTF as a warm up. Have the WTF at Shanghai instead of London, replacing the Masters. The Masters on grass will be in London most likely, so London won’t lose out either.

          • Excellent idea of having a Masters tourney in London on grass. It would be cool if they could make Queens Club a masters event, but the hardcore traditionalist at Queens would never go for making such big changes to the club. If I recall correctly, I think that Queens Club chairpeople/members were barely ok with making the very slight changes to the stadium/grounds that were required to make it a 500.

            Maybe they could build a big grass masters tournament elsewhere in Britain? It would be cool to have a grass masters in Scotland or Wales. Or even make one in Ireland or something haha. That would be cool.

    • Yeah, I feel like the WTF has been sub-par for years. There’s usually one, maybe two if lucky, good matches each year and all the rest suck. Last year there was that Murray-Raonic SF that was great. Nishikori had a great match against someone. But all the rest were duds. 2015 were all duds if I remember correctly. 2014 had that drama-filled Fed-Stan semifinal, but all the rest sucked. There was that classic Fed-Nalbandian final in 2005. I feel like the WTF were better in the ’80s and early-mid ’90s for various reasons. Guys weren’t quite as worn out at the end of the season because the game was very different, among other reasons.

  3. Do away with the rule of a mandatory 500 event after USO, but the tournaments can still exist for interested players to take part. Reduce the number of mandatory events so players need not play too many events to qualify for WTF.

    • I think anything that reduces the number of mandatory events, is a good idea. Players should not have to stagger into the WTF on their last legs.

  4. It’s incredible how ATP keeps making the same mistake scheduling the WTF in November without a significant break that allows players to be ready for it. Can’t they see that playing it at this time of the year, the vast majority of the players are gassed due to the mileage in their bodies after a long season?
    I find it actually very difficult to get high level/intensity tennis at the WTF because of the players fatigue.
    It’s imperative that ATP make a new schedule, with an extended grass season and cutting off the fall swing(extremely important, as hard courts are the hardest on players bodies), something close to what you very well said Ricky.
    That way, we could expect WTF to live up to its name, the final event of the year that rewards the 8 most consistent players all over the season and allows them to play their best tennis and provide great matches to the fans. I also think it’s more than time to move from London, getting back to Asia would be a good option, as Asian fans are also a big part of the collective of tennis fans, globally speaking.

  5. Chapeau to Ricky for his rethink of the schedule. You should get yourself elected to the ATP Council and talk some sense into them.

    IMO Davis Cup could easily be scrapped. It is an anomaly in this day and age and unnecessarily arduous especially for the top players. Besides tennis is a gladiator sport not a team game.

    I particularly dislike the fact the ITF blackmail players into participating in Davis Cup matches :-((

  6. The tennis schedule is so lopsided in so many ways. I would make even more radical changes to equalize the number of big tournaments on different surfaces.

    In the first half of the year: demote Miami (which players don’t really like) and one of MC, Rome, or Madrid to a 500, leaving 2 clay 1000s. Then extend the grass season by six weeks and add two grass masters. Leave Montreal and Cinci, and then after USO make the end of the year all indoors. Demote Paris to a 500 (it already has RG). Make Shanghai indoors, and add another 1000 indoors, either in Beijing or Tokyo. Get rid of DC entirely, and reduce number of mandatory 500s or eliminate that requirement entirely.

    That would leave 3 outdoor HC, 2 clay, 2 grass, and 2 indoor HC 1000s. 9 total, same as now. HC would still predominate, which is as it should be, but there would be a bit more indoor, and grass and clay would be more equal.

    • HC “predominates” only because it’s CHEAP. Clay and grass are the traditional surfaces and much easier on players’ bodies. But we’re stuck with it now, because most of the high ranking players play best on hard court – because it’s easier to get ranking points there because there’s so many of them. It’s a vicious circle.

      You can’t eliminate the fall Asian swing because Asia is a HUGE market and has up and coming potential stars. But having the WTF in Shanghai never worked well. That’s why it got moved to London, where it is popular and well-supported and has a nice venue. Personally I think the WTF should be moved to South America and played outdoors because I’m a grouchy old woman who can put up with hard court but thinks indoor tennis is somewhere between a travesty and a joke.

      • Good points. I wasn’t calling to eliminate the Asian HC season. Actually, I think it should be expanded, perhaps replacing Paris with an Asian 1000. I do like the idea of more tennis in South America, but I think it makes more sense to do it during clay court season, leaving WTF for Asia.

  7. Goffin’s game matches up very well against Thiem actually. If the knee holds up well(it’s a big if)I believe Goffin has a great chance against a player that’s not that great in this surface. However, I’m rooting for Thiem, as I believe he can make a more competitive semifinal against Federer, instead of Goffin, that will take a beatdown if they met.

  8. Jeez this match is an embarrassment with goffin and thiem competing to play the lousiest tennis!
    One of these guys will be in the SF… Sigh..

        • Hey amy!!….I’m around if you’re around!!hehehe…Ermm..i’m fine physically amy…thank u for asking boss!…how about u?Still suffered from flu?I hope your health already back to normal amy!..Btw…i’m really glad you’re back active posting your comments here…it’s really joyful to read your comments..tho,like Ali,i miss RC very much..

      • Probably just Fed and Rafa haha. 🙂 But no, in all seriousness, if we forget about this season’s and last season’s WTF where at least two of the Big 4 + Stan are absent, then that means that the WTF would have 3 spots available after those 5 best players. In my opinion, the 3 guys who SHOULD round it out would be Nishikori, Zverev, and either Raonic or Cilic. But because those guys are not always consistent or have injury woes, I would say that Thiem, Dimitrov, Delpo would have just as good a shot.

        If everyone played to their best ability, and no one was injured, I would say the WTF next year should be the Big 4, Stan, Delpo, Zverev, and Niskikori, with Thiem and Raonic and alternates.

        What you guys think?

        • Nope, It’s Dimi for me. I can see Dimi and his game maturing nicely now. I read that Dimi benefitted much spending time with Rafa at his academy this season, which may explain why he’s able to push his game to the next level. I feel after his narrow loss at the SF of AO, Dimi lost a bit of confidence and belief; his level dipped quite a bit after that even though he won at Sofia his home ground. He was losing early in many of his tournaments before picking up steam starting with Cincy title and then reaching SF at Beijing.

          I’m not sure Stan would be there. Stan will be 33 next season, he’s not that consistent during the season except when it comes to slams. If he’s not back to his normal level, then he may do poorly at the slams too. Kei is injury prone and he too may miss out at the WTF if he gets injured again.

          I think Delpo and Thiem will make it, as long as Delpo doesn’t get injured again. Thiem has made it twice already and he seldom gets injured. He’s solid on clay and as long as he sustains his level on clay to win about the same number of points or better, he most likely will qualify. He has already done better, points wise, in 2017 than in 2016.

          I’m still not sure about Zverev, got to see whether he could push his game to another level, esp if the big four are getting back on track. I think Cilic will fall out of top ten if he can’t defend his points at Wimbledon.

          • I agree that Dimi’s game is maturing nicely. I think that the issue with him has always been more mental than anything else. He still has many matches where he is in a winning position, and then falls away mentally. So many times he has lost when having multiple match points. That happens to everyone at some point, but it has happened to him many times in the last couple years. If he can continue working on that, he should definitely be consistently in the mix for WTF qualification. If he can win WTF this year, I think that could give him a lot of confidence. Even though he lost, I actually thought that the AO semi was maybe his best match this year. He didn’t collapse mentally or anything. Rafa was just better.

        • If everyone played to his best ability, Nick Kyrgios would probably be the #1 player in the world, but most certainly in the top 8.

        • Big four plus Stan Dimitrov Kyrgios and someone who gets injured a lot aka Del Po Kei or Raonic. Either that or Kyrgios gets injured too often or underperforms at slams again and doesn’t qualify. If Nick waivers with his form and motivation during small events, he can still make it but he can’t afford to pull stupid shit at majors. And if Thiem continues to play so badly on hard courts, he won’t make it next year. He has to keep coming up with amazing clay court swings to qualify. I don’t know if he can pull off another French open semifinal and Rome final next year if Murray and Nole are back and healthy and Rafa and Stan still around of course. Maybe Roger will play the clay swing but we don’t know right now. Seems kinda doubtful.

  9. Hopefully the ATP is seeing this all the way we (the fans) are seeing it- that with the way the game is played in recent years, having a schedule as long and taxing as it is has finally caught up to the top players and is coming back to bite them. That all four of the Big Four, plus all the other perennial top-ten guys, have had to miss large swaths of the season at some point in the last two years. That cannot be a coincidence! Of course it’s harder to prove with the Big 4 guys because they have all been playing for many years now and are into their 30s, or approaching 40 in Fed’s case. But the fact that the younger top players like Raonic and Kei have also had to take half-season-worth of time off because of injury the last two years really shows to me that it’s not just a coincidence. Big changes must come…

      • Amy…Last i chat with her bout 3 weeks ago…maybe she’s busy with her work or go vacation somewhere…But,wherever she is..i hope,she’s okay and will posting here again soon…

        U have a stressful afternoon amy??Oh don’t worry Boss!…Just imagine u smack Stanley’s head,i guarantee u,all your stress will go away just like a nite been swallowed by a morning sunshine!…Woooohooo!!

        • Don’t talk about the night mira!! I woke in the early hours and reached for a glass of water which I managed to spill everywhere and the water got into the bedside light and switched it on so that I couldn’t switch it off and when I tried to unplug it it electrocuted me!!!! So I had to blunder around trying to switch it off at the mains but the stupid electrician had labelled all the switches wrong so I had to devise an extraordinarily courageous and masterful solution to this ridiculous situation!! (hahaha)
          Seems comic now but I was pretty upset at the time!
          Hope rc comes back soon as it’s quite weird not having her here…
          Goffin vs fed hey!! That will be fun!!

          • Oh God amy!!….I’m glad you’re okay in this accident!…It could turned otherwise u know!!…Oh thank u God!!..Next time be careful okay??

            Yeah!!…Goff vs Fed is going to be fun!!Can’t wait to watch it!

  10. Thiem really sucks on HC at the moment, he’s absolutely clueless there. Applying clay court tactics, especially on indoor hard is the same as self destruction. Beating the ball on the fall, in order to generate great amounts of spin/weight is extremely ineffective because this surface just kills the spin.
    He needs to start taking the ball on the rise, change is FH/BH drills, which will allow him to flatten is shots and go all agressive with less spin. Also his serve’s breaking down so many times, he should really work on its motion.
    Magnus Norman would be the perfect guy to make him change, unfortunately he’s not an option right now.

    • Yeeeaah, Gaviria, I never thought about that- Magnus Norman would be a great option for Dominic! Stan was a solid clay court player who had made a masters final, but then Magnus came in and not only made him a contender for big titles, but made him a big title contender on more than just clay. Dominic is so talented, and is technically the biggest hitter on tour. He needs a lot more variety, though. And a guy like Magnus could potentially help him a lot. Great idea! 🙂

      • Thanks Kevin 🙂
        What he did to Stan was really amazing, not only making him a multi Slam champion but also ending significant losing streaks against Rafa and Djokovic.
        We also can’t forget the fantastic job he did to Soderling, leading him to consecutive Grand Slam finals at the FO in 2009 and 2010 and winning the Paris Masters also in 2010. His approach, besides finding the worries of the players on the court, is characterized by the strengthen of his friendship with the players(Vallverdu has been working with Dimitrov in a similar way, the results are there,what makes it easier to change their mindsets, drills, everything.
        At the moment I feel that Thiem’s game is stuck. For sure that under his wing, Thiem would reach new heights in his career and develop hugely as a player.

  11. Thanks Kevin 🙂
    What he did to Stan was really amazing, not only making him a multi Slam champion but also ending significant losing streaks against Rafa and Djokovic.
    We also can’t forget the fantastic job he did to Soderling, leading him to consecutive Grand Slam finals at the FO in 2009 and 2010 and winning the Paris Masters also in 2010. His approach, besides finding the worries of the players on the court, is characterized by the strengthen of his friendship with the players(Vallverdu has been working with Dimitrov in a similar way, the results are there,what makes it easier to change their mindsets, drills, everything.
    At the moment I feel that Thiem’s game is stuck. For sure that under his wing, Thiem would reach new heights in his career and develop hugely as a player.

    • Yes, his work with Soderling was obviously awesome as well. It seems like he just had a knack for really maximizing a player’s potential.

  12. Ive always been curious to know which 3 time GS champion people think is the greater Andy or Stan, id just think its a thing thats never been discussed and could be a quite interesting topic ?

    • Personally, I feel like Andy has had a much more amazing overall career than Stan, as Andy was at the top of the game winning Masters titles and making slam finals every year from a young age. Andy also has that #1 ranking cemented to his legacy, as well at a WTF and gold medals, although Stan at least has some sort of gold medal.

      Stan, on the other hand, has admitted himself that he is not a consistently great enough player to get to #1. That’s one thing I appreciate about Stan- he fully accepts who he is and what he is capable of.

      The one area where Stan clearly takes the cake is that he is more of a big-match player. Stan has only been to 4 major finals compared to Andy’s 11, but he’s won 3 of those 4. Plus, Stan can claim to have beaten each of the Big 4 en route to a major title. Yes, Rafa got injured in that 2014 AO final, but we can’t say that Stan didn’t deserve that title just because we THINK Rafa would have won it if not for the injury. So then Stan has that achievement that Andy Murray cannot claim.

      But overall, I personally don’t even think it’s debateable who has had the better career… Once Stan became a world-beater, he became more clutch at the majors than Murray ever has been, but that’s really the only way I personally think Stan is “better” than Murray. I suppose that if there are people who strictly care about major title haul, and don’t care about ranking numbers, consistency, tour-level titles, or any other things all the great players have excelled at, then maybe they could argue they think Stan is better?

      What is “better” really, though? It’s so subjective that it’s almost impossible to debate such a broad concept…

      • Totally agree with you Kevin! Stan is the real deal when it comes down to big matches, in beast mode he’s sensational to watch. Murray clearly has enjoyed a more consistently impressive career while Stan is a late bloomer. At the end of the day is really subjective to say who is the better between them.

        • I love that term “Beast Mode”, Gaviria. 🙂 I’ve heard it a lot recently in the context of pro sports, especially basketball and tennis. I think I should use it more haha! For example, I’m sure you would agree that Rafa was in Beast Mode at Roland Garros this year. 🙂

          • You’re right Kevin! No one could stop him there, his level was beyond perfection imo. I believe it was one of the greatest Grand Slam performances of all time and I will remember it as one of the most dominant in his career.
            For me, Fedalovic in beast mode is one of the best things I’ve ever seen across all sports.

    • Andy. He’s been better longer than Stan and way more consistent. Stan may be a better match up vs Novak though – he usually plays him tough. He beat Novak in AO ’14 to get to that final vs Rafa so I always felt he deserved the win, given Novak’s record there, even though Rafa was hurting and couldn’t make a contest of it. I was really impressed by Stan at RG ’15. I tuned into the match just when Stan was at his best and sat there with my jaw dropped, wondering if even a healthy Rafa could have beaten him – well, Rafa pretty much answered that one this year!

  13. Thiem – he has to add in new dimensions to his game; he’s not willing to move forward to the net to hit some volleying; stays too far back from the baseline playing clay court style tennis on HCs. Unlike Rafa, who also hits topspin shots, Thiem doesn’t have Rafa’s quickness and court craft. Rafa despite playing clay court style tennis on HCs, esp prior to 2013, was still able to win HC slam titles and Masters titles. Rafa also returns better than Thiem though not having as big a serve.

    Thiem has a big FH but he chooses more often than not to use his SHBH; should concentrate on using both regularly and attacks and defends from both wings CC and DTL. His game now looks limited because he chooses to camp at his BH and hit it CC most of the time and is slow to cover his FH corner when under attack.

    He also has to vary the way he serves, not just serving with pace, but with varieties too. He still has plenty to improve on I feel, esp on non clay surfaces. He’s a bit like Rafa, who during his early days, concentrated his efforts on winning on clay; it’s after his dominance on clay that he started to conquer the other surfaces.

    If Thiem wants to consistently be in the top five, he has to start winning on the other surfaces. The competition is keen and he does not have Rafa’s kind of dominance on clay, so he better do something to improve when playing on the other surfaces.

    • Theim is way too inconsistent !! So many errors from backhand wing. Rafa at 19 was a better hard courter than current version of Theim.

      Theim played well during clay court season but he did not win anything. He beat a tired Rafa and thats why everybody thought he was the next big thing on clay. He beat a very subpar Djoker in FO. I thought he played a horrendous SF against Rafa.

      • He’s the next big thing on clay, don’t forget, he didn’t win anything because he lost to Rafa – at Barcelona and Madrid final! You can’t blame him for losing badly to Rafa in the FO SF, when the 2015 FO champion didn’t do any better against Rafa in the final.

        He has the second most ranking points on clay this season, after Rafa, which is why he can qualify for the WTF despite doing not so well on the other surfaces.

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