Goffin doubles his fun at ATP Finals with another upset, this time over Federer

David Goffin–and an injury–ended Rafael Nadal’s season. Goffin–single-handedly–ended Roger Federer’s.

Pulling off his second self-proclaimed best-ever win in the same week, Goffin shocked Federer 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semis of the Nitto ATP Finals on Saturday afternoon. The world No. 8 caught fire from just about out of nowhere in the second and third sets to earn his first career victory over his childhood idol after one hour and 45 minutes of play.

Goffin had previously been 0-6 lifetime against Federer, and 2-14 in total sets. He had just lost–and “lost” may be an understatement–6-1, 6-2 on the indoor hard courts of Basel three weeks ago. Following a 33-minute opening set at the O2 Arena, it looked like a near certainty that more of the same would continue.

But it wouldn’t.

The tide began to turn with Federer serving at 0-1 in the second set. Although the Swiss gave himself a game point to hold on three different occasions, Goffin eventually broke for a quick 2-0 lead. The 26-year-old held the rest of the way, withstanding one deuce at 3-1 and fighting off a break point at 4-2 before an especially impressive hold to love at 5-3.

Amazingly enough, one early break was also enough for Goffin in the decide. London’s red-hot No. 7 seed, a recent champion in Shenzhen and Tokyo, struck for a 2-1 lead and then battled through a nervy service game that included another break point as he extended his advantage to 3-1.

If Goffin had any nerves down the stretch, he showed no sign of them. Firing aces and service winners that belied his 5’11”, 150-pound frame, the Belgian dropped only one point in his last three service games.

“It was good there [is a video screen during] the changeover,” he explained. “I was more relaxed so I didn’t think about the first point or the game I have to play. I was watching the highlights of the previous game. I was a little bit more relaxed. As soon as the chair umpire said, ‘time,’ I was ready with the ball. I didn’t have time to think about what I have to do. I served an ace. When you start the game with an ace, it’s always better.”

Goffin, who indicated beforehand that he was “going to try something different; something that I’ve never done in the past,” was far better than he was against Federer in Basel. But did he really have a different plan?

“Yeah,” Federer answered. “He played better. That was a good plan.”

How much better can it get for Goffin? Well, the biggest title of his career will be at stake on Sunday. But even if he goes home–or goes to Belgium’s Davis Cup tie in France, to be exact–without the winner’s trophy, it will go down as a historic week. Goffin is now the sixth player ever to beat both Federer and Nadal in the same tournament–joining Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Nikolay Davydenko, David Nalbandian, and Juan Martin Del Potro.

“Both are really special,” Goffin said of the two wins. “It was the first time against Rafa. Then (I reached) the semifinal for the first time here, and to beat Roger for the first time here in such a big event, big tournament, it was [a] perfect moment. It is the best win of my career, for sure.”

70 Comments on Goffin doubles his fun at ATP Finals with another upset, this time over Federer

  1. Well done Goffin.

    A lesson to be learnt – we can’t take things for granted. Almost everyone of us assumed that Fed would win this one, some even award Fed with the trophy already, at least in their hearts and mind.

    Rafa at least can breathe a little bit easy now, with 1040 points over Fed instead of only 140 points if Fed wins the title.

  2. I’ve thought for awhile now that if only Goffin could get mentally tougher he would be among the very best players in the world. To beat Roger indoors like this in a big match is huge. Earlier this year, he was dominating Rafa on clay at Monte Carlo before an atrocious call went against him; after that he simply folded. He has the game to be competitive against the best, and his ability to hit the ball earlier works on all surfaces, including clay.

    As I said after his victory against Nadal a few days ago, if Goffin can use these sorts of victories -and this one against Roger is even bigger than the one against Rafa, given the surface- to change his mindset in the big points, then he has turned a big corner. If so, we will definitely see him in the top 8 next year, assuming he can stay healthy.

    • Joe Smith says AT 11:23 PM: “he was dominating Rafa on clay at Monte Carlo before an atrocious call went against him”.
      ===
      It’s useless whining! 👎

        • Just like when Rafa had an atrocious line call against Fed 2 sets up in Miami in 2005 that would have given Rafa double break point which if broken, would have allowed him to serve for the match.

          There are TONS of players who could be greats if mentally stronger.

          That’s what separates the cream from the rest.

          • “There are TONS of players who could be greats if mentally stronger.”

            Yes, but most never get that breakthrough win in a big match, which is why a win against the GOAT in the WTF semis, from a set down no less, is huge for Goffin.

    • Joe you seem to have watched lot of tennis still talk as if a line call changes course of an entire match. C’mon that call was not even a game point for goffin it was to go ad up on rafas serve …and it’s a full 3 set match…rafa would anyway have won it given the way he played those 3 months. The same rafa beat goffin at madrid 2 weeks later without any line call drama. And if a player can let a single call make him fold, he does not deserve to be in top 10 as mental fortitude and ability to shake off things that go against you is instrumental in how far you go.

      • Sanju, my point about Goffin was precisely about his lack of mental toughness; he let the bad call at MC get to him and his level dropped badly.

        I made no claim about whether Goffin would have ultimately prevailed; I just said that he was dominating Rafa until that bad line call, which was true.

        • Goffin definitely did completely fall apart after that call. Has nothing to do with who coulda/shoulda/woulda. He was playing amazing, and then completely just shut down after that bad call situation. Which was surprising to me, as Goffin has been playing long enough that I would have thought that he would be used to having some sort of umpire decision not go his way. He reacted to it like Kyrgios would!

          Even if Goffin were able to win that match, which I still don’t really think he would have, it wouldn’t have had
          any effect whatsoever on the tournament that really mattered- Roland Garros.

  3. Quick comment on Roger’s season, which was obviously fantastic. If Rafa’s season has been unprecedented for a male player his age in the open era (which it has been), then Federer’s is even more so. I remember watching Connors play at the age of 36, marvelling that he was even out there. (I believe he reached two slam semi-finals in 1987). Federer winning two slams and 3 masters 1000s, at age 35-36, may well be a record that is never repeated. I know that people are expecting Rafa and Novak to continue for awhile, but 5-6 years is an eternity in men’s tennis after the age of 30. I don’t think either of them will be having that sort of success at 35-36.

    Well done on an unbelievable season, Roger.

        • Yup, Joe trolling.

          Rafa played on all surfraces this year and became the oldest player in the history of tennis to finish No. 1.

          Roger is great but Rafa is betterer.

            • Crappy strawman arguments!!!! Fcuk this gets so old and I’m reminded why I left.

              Those AREN’T the statements you made though that hc conclusion is up for debate. Rafa was better at hc slams with a final and a title compared to Fed’s title and QF. (I know how much Fedfans like to make it all about the slams until it doesn’t fit the narrative.)

              Where do I disagree? I thought it was obvious in My post!

              I disagree with THIS:
              ” If Rafa’s season has been unprecedented for a male player his age in the open era (which it has been), then Federer’s is even more so. ”

              Federer didn’t achieve what Rafa did this year (oldest player at No. 1) so Federer’s achievement is NOT objectively more unprecedented.

              And this trolly statement:

              “Off clay for his career, he’s maybe in the top 10 of all time.”

              Sure, just like Federer “maybe” in top 10 hc players.

              FWIW, probably Fed and Nole not in top 10 clay players though with just one FO to their names.

              Whereas Rafa is in the Top 10 on ALL surfraces.

            • Based on big tournament performance, Federer is objectively the best HC player ever, with slight edge over Novak. On same metric, he is best grass player ever, with slight edge over Sampras.

              Where does Fed rate on clay? He lost 4 slam finals, 1 slam SF, and countless masters finals, to (by far) the greatest clay player ever. That makes it difficult to assess his all-time rank based solely on clay titles. He’s clearly one of the three best clay players of his generation, a bit behind Novak perhaps.

              Surely something similar can be said of Nadal off clay? Not quite. Rafa lost 6 slams finals on HC and grass to Fed or Novak. That is 2 per slam against his biggest rivals -versus 4 for Fed at RG, 5 if you count the SF loss. Those slam losses by Rafa surely count, and I was wrong: he is easily in the top 10 off clay. But they don’t count as much as Roger’s losses on clay. Apart from Fed’s losses being more numerous (per slam), Nadal is much more dominant on clay than Roger or Novak is off clay. Basically, Rafa’s extreme dominance on clay makes finishing 2nd that much more impressive in an all-time comparison with others who never had to face someone as dominant as Nadal on clay.

              Was I trolling? Well, I made a comment about Federer’s 2017 being more “unprecedented” than Nadal’s -while praising Rafa, please note. Augusta then came in to say that “Rafa is the best”.

              I used the wrong word; I should have said Roger’s achievement is more “surprising” or “unexpected” than Rafa’s. I stand by that. Federer’s achievement, at age 36, is more surprising and unexpected than Nadal’s at 31. I would add: “more impressive,” though I recognize many others will disagree.

            • Actually I think the old guards like Laver and Rosewall were better than Fed on grass, winning more slams on grass. Objectively saying, Fed is the best on grass at Wimbledon, but can’t say he’s better than Laver or Rosewall on grass generally.

              Fed may be the best on HCs at this point, after all he won ten slams on HCs with numerous other HC titles but I won’t be surprised that Djoko may end up be the best HC player ever.

              Fed and Djoko not in top ten on clay, when there’re others winning more than one FO. It’s winning the title that matters, not just reaching the Finals. Laver, Rosewall and others had won more than one FO title ( and reaching Finals too)!

            • Someone asked Rosewall how he thought he, Laver, Hoad, and other greats from the 50s-60s compared to the best today. His response: there’s no comparison; they’re playing a different game. I think that’s about right.

              Apart from anything else, it’s misleading simply to count major grass titles in comparing players from the two eras, since 3 out of the 4 slams were played on grass back then. Even so, Rosewall has only 2 more grass slams (10) and Laver one more (9) as compared to Federer (8). Roger has as many Wimbledon titles as Laver and Rosewall combined (4 each). If 3/4 of slams were played on grass in this century, Roger might have 20 grass slam titles.

              You didn’t really address my argument that because of Federer’s numerous second place finishes behind the greatest clay court player ever, simply counting his clay titles isn’t an accurate way of assessing where he sits on the list of all-time clay court greats. No top player had to face such a great champion so many times in big matches. Neither of Borg’s main rivals (Connors and McEnroe), by comparison, ever faced him at RG.

              Here’s a list of players since 1950 that have more final appearances at Roland Garros than Federer:

              Rafael Nadal
              Bjorn Borg

              That’s right. Just the two greatest clay court players ever. Federer is tied for 3rd, along with Mats Wilander. No way Roger is the 12th best clay court player ever. I put him in the top 5.

            • Joe, don’t forget Laver and Co, had to miss out on many slams, for they weren’t allowed to play them. Do read my post again, I said based on Wimbledon only, Fed was no. 1.

              You keep talking about Fed and his FO Finals, do remember he was helped by his top two ranking, if not he might not even reach the final when he had to meet Rafa earlier than the final. Also, there’s Djoko who’s equal to if not better than Fed on clay, but he’s always in Rafa’s half of the draw, from 2007 to 2010. I’ll bet that the 2008 Djoko would be able to beat Fed had they met in the SF. Fed and Djoko were 1:1 at the FO, from 2011-2012.

            • Fat hope that Fed is top five on Clay. No.12 is about right, I doubt he’s better on clay than Lendl, Wilander, Djoko, Laver and some others.

            • Well, Novak and Roger have each lost to Nadal 5 times at RG, and (as you say) they’re 1-1 H2H there. So that’s a push. Novak gets the edge, however, based on his superior record at clay masters, including his better record (as compared to Fed) against Nadal on clay.

              However, I wasn’t comparing Roger to Novak, but rather to clay greats from other eras who never had to face a player like Nadal. I think both Roger and Novak are under-rated on the list of all-time greats on clay because of their bad losing records to Rafa.

            • Joe, Fed was being rated as no.12, and Im agreeable to that. He clearly wasn’t top five on clay no matter how you argue about it; there’re Lendl and Wilander, and there’s Djoko.

              There’re also players who won more FO titles than Fed, a whole list of them, and you can’t say they’re not as good as Fed on clay, because many of them were clay specialists.

              If they in their prime or peak were to play against Rafa, they might not have the luxury that Fed had (being ranked top two and so avoided Rafa till the final) as they might be ranked lower than top two and might meet Rafa before the final.

              The objective way to rank these players on clay is to look at their major titles won; as there’s no way to compare different eras accurately. It’s just like Fed and Sampras played on different Wimbledon grass surfaces, faced different opponents at Wimbledon; there’s no way to say for sure Fed is better than Sampras so we have to go by titles won there.

            • “You didn’t really address my argument that because of Federer’s numerous second place finishes behind the greatest clay court player ever, simply counting his clay titles isn’t an accurate way of assessing where he sits on the list of all-time clay court greats.”

              So this is a peRFect example of what I’m talking about when I refer to selective/confirmatory bias and these circular-boring-biased-groundhog-day-sound-and-fury-signifying-nothing-BS arguments.

              Joe Smith wants to focus not on Fed’s lone clay slam title, but focus on all of his final losses to Rafa.

              So we are to ignore the quality of Fed’s opponents during the Weak Era against players who couldn’t consistently make slam finals because it doesn’t fit the narrative, yet consider the quality of his opponent at the French because it happens to fit the narrative.

              And then of course, Joe Smith made the original statement about Rafa MAYBE being top 10 on hard courts to which he admits to being wrong (or trolling IMO), you say toe-MAY-toe, I say trolling), which is why I called the whole thing off for a while and will again soon.

              Here’s a list of players since 1950 that have more final appearances at hard court slams than Nadal:

              Djokovic
              Federer
              Sampras
              Lendl
              Connors

              Here’s a list of players since 1950 that have more consecutive final appearances at Wimbledon when entered than Nadal:

              Borg
              Federer

              And just six players overall at Wimbledon.

              And since we’re all being catty about it, Sampras is better on traditionally fast grass courts of Wimbledon.

              Federer benefited from the grass at Wimbledon becoming slower so he’s a better slow grass player than Sampras.

            • C’mon man, stop blaming Rafa.

              Rafa wasn’t even at the French in 2004 when a prime Federer at 23 (who won every other slam that year lost in the 3rd round!!!

              pfft. Lucky is right.

            • Lucky, you say:

              “The objective way to rank these players on clay is to look at their major titles won; as there’s no way to compare different eras accurately.”

              I have no problem with that, but then it applies generally and throws the whole “weak era” argument out the window. It also does put Rafa just within the top ten, off clay (that’s about where his 6 non-clay slams sits).

              Hawkeye says: “C’mon man, stop blaming Rafa.”

              Well, I’m hardly blaming him; praising him is more like it. But I’m explaining Fed’s lack of more RG titles by showing how many times he’s lost to the greatest clay court player ever. Nothing wrong with that.

              Hawkeye also accuses me of selective use of argument/data (“confirmatory bias”), which in this case has some credibility. However, it cuts both ways. If it’s wrong to focus on the strength of Fed’s opposition on clay, then it’s also wrong to focus on the strength of Fed’s opposition from 2003-07.

              To be clear, I’m not opposed in principle to the idea that strength of opposition matters in making these assessments. That would be stupid. But it’s a very difficult thing to do in an objective manner. And claiming that an entire field of 128 players is weak is much more problematic than claiming that one particular player is strong, particularly on a given surface.

              Lucky, you have now answered my argument, even though we disagree. And you, of course, face the same problem as anyone is trying to be consistent in how you apply strength of opposition considerations, not selectively favouring Rafa (in your case) when doing so.

            • “If it’s wrong to focus on the strength of Fed’s opposition on clay, then it’s also wrong to focus on the strength of Fed’s opposition from 2003-07.”

              That’s my point. It’s you that want it both ways.

            • You have always focused on the alleged weakness of the men’s field from 2003-07 as part of the explanation for why Fed won so many slams during those years.

              Yet you criticize the idea that Roger’s lack of RG titles can be explained primarily because of the presence of the greatest ever clay court player.

              That’s wanting to have it both ways.

    • Joe, I can’t think of any player just now, who will win 2 slams at age 35-36. It might happen, but very unlikely in the next 2 decades.

        • Hawkeye 👍

          Not forgetting Rafa had to beat Fed or Djoko to win three of his four HC slams. He’s 1-1 vs Fed at AO Finals; 2-2 vs Djoko at AO/USO Finals, not bad for a guy whose fave surface isn’t HC.

      • Actually it’s 2 slams at age 35. He’s still 36 now and had not won any slam yet at age 36. I checked that Ken Rosewall won one slam each at age 35 (USO) 36 (AO) and 37 (AO), all on grass. It’s a pity that he couldn’t win at Wimbledon, when he could win his USO and AO titles playing on grass.

      • Eugene, but you probably didn’t see that happening for Federer 4-5 years ago when he was struggling with back problems.

        Fool me once…

  4. For Joe,Eugene,Big Al,Benny….Sorry Roger lost okay?But he & his buddy Rafa truly have an amazing year that we cherished so much,right?Can’t wait to see what in store for them next year…With the return of Novak,Andy,Stan,&co..i guess things are going to be a little bit hard…but good luck for both of them in 2018!

      • Hahaha….Thank u so much Joe!..And yeah..i understand what u mean…U just be patient when u posting here okay?Sometimes i felt very sympathy for Fedfans[except Stanleyley] coz every single things they said has been scrutinized & if not up to standard,then bam!…EXECUTED!!…That’s okay Joe…like i said…Just be patient..and sometimes needs to let go…for the peace of our mind…

        • Stop abusing my name, I don’t like it.
          Respect is reciprocal.

          Why don’t u call me sweet Stan or Stanley?
          You know I like Rafa, why can’t you see it, I just know that R. Federer is the best overall.

          Is that bad?

        • Mira, that’s something that can be expected from you and your comments are always welcome. It’s been an amazing year for both players. It’s okay that Fed lost. It’s a natural cycle. I thought Goffin at some point will have to get through, he deserves it and as Joe said, I hope next year he’ll be in top 8. I am very thankful to Roger. Can’t even ask for more. Just play as long as he enjoys playing. What can I ask more> Winning masters and slams at 36 is speechless. All the best Mira 🙂

          • Thank u Eugene!…Actually,i also entertained the idea that Goffin has a chance to win in this match…A couple of days ago,Andy’s coach Jamie Deldago said,he thought maybe Rog had a niggling of some sort on his win over Cilic…

            But yeah…Goffin deserves the credit..his mental toughness was awesome…And i rooted for him against Dimi tonight…Hope he win..tho.it’s going to be tough to play the confident Dimi…He’s so fast on court…All the best to u too Eugene!!

    • Thanks Mira. Yeah this season was amazing to watch. Fedal is quite something else. Never have seen and never will see a tennis duo like this again. Truly amazing stuff.

      • You’re welcome Benny!…And yeah!…LOVE to see the chemistry between Fedal..I can’t forget at Laver Cup when Roger secured the win for Europe Team,suddenly his arms was full of one Rafael Nadal!Hehehe…God!That sight will remain in my memory for a long long time…VAMOS FEDAL!!

        P/S..Hope their extreme fanatics will take a lesson from their respectful,adoration friendship..No need to demean,belittling or write a hurtful post just because we adore our favs…And my post is dedicated to ALL Fedal fans all over the world…

  5. 10645 is still lower for a world no 1 at end of year compared to all previous years . I thought usually they amassed 11500 plus atleast. This just shows it was split evenly between players..eg zverev winning 2 masters ,dimi winning a masters and likely the wtf etc. The race was tight in 2012 2013 2016 too not sure how much Novak rafa and Murray ended the year at that year.

  6. 2012 Djoko was no.1 at 12920 points;
    2013 Rafa was no.1 at 13030 points;
    2016 Murray was no.1 at 12410 points.

    I think starting from 2009 when they adjusted the points system, 2009 was the year with the no.1 player Fed having the lowest number of points for a YE no.1 player. Rafa’s 2017 ranked as second lowest; the other YE no.1s scored higher than 11,000 points, with Djoko’s 11360 in 2014 being the third lowest.

  7. Recipe to beat Fed (picked from some comment)

    Goffin had the perfect gameplan as well with his nothing to lose shot making

    1)Take Fed out wide to his forehand to with deep shots or angled shots and then follow that up with an aggressive forehand down the line

    2) Be aggressive with the return with the first and second serve (fed was not)

    3) Come to the net when the opportunity is there

    4) Move him side to side(in short make him run)

    • Exactly, make Fed run. I’ve noticed during the year that Fed tends to camp at his BH corner these days, and if you can draw him out wide you have a chance to hit to his FH corner and more often than not, you may extract an error out of Fed.

      The problem with the field is that they still stick to the old way of attacking Fed’s BH consistently; I was wondering what were the coaches doing, they were paid to do the job of formulating plans for their respective players to deal with their opposition, yet the players kept making the same mistakes.

      I thought Goffin was the same after watching set one but credit to him and his team, he managed to execute a different game plan, a more attacking one and won in the end.

      Rafa should watch how Goffin did it, picks up some tips, if he wants to beat Fed again on the HCs; camping at the baseline instead of moving forward clearly is not the right way to approach his match vs Fed.

      • Goffin varied his game and executed a new gameplan as I was expected. he even mentioned it before the match he’ll try something new.
        BUT, if Fed played as always he would still have won. He was just looking like a man who needs a long holiday. Hitting simple BH out off the court often is not characteristic to him.

    • I think it’s a bit more simple than that. Be aggressive, take the ball early. That was the core of Goffin’s gameplan/success. That’s what Fed does. Take time from his opponents. Goffin has always taken the ball early but this time he did so but followed up at the net more like you said. For those who are saying Rafa should watch what Goffin did, that isn’t really how he ever plays. He can obviously play very aggressive but he doesn’t take the ball early much at all or really try to take time from his opponent. It was honestly the perfect change to his tactics by Goffin.

      • He can, once in a while, like he did vs Djoko at Canada in 2013. Rafa can play inside the court if he chooses to; it’s a matter of whether he wants to get out of his comfort zone or not. He doesn’t need to play that way all the time as he’s good enough to beat most players playing his own game; he just need to do that when facing Djoko and Fed on the HCs.

      • He’s not doing that this season until at Beijing because Rafa wasn’t that confident yet with his game on the HCs; hes unfortunate to injure his knee during Shanghai, hence he wasn’t playing his best tennis in the final whilst Fed played one of his best matches in the final.

  8. Simon Briggs rated the Top 20 male players on clay, apparently in early 2015. Rafa was #1. Djokovic was #9 (Had not won RG at that point so he may have moved up a bit). Roger was #12. Doubt his rating has improved any since then.

    Re the GOAT debate, Roger stated at the Laver Cup that it’s Rod Laver. Good for him!

    • Yay!! It’s about time someone said it! If there could ever be a GOAT, it should be Laver! My hero!

      Very nice of Fed to give the grand old man if tennis his due! I grew up watching him and it was a privilege to see him play. He changed the game forever. He had to play during s time when tennis was still basically an amateur sport. But he did join up with the professionals and that cost him.

      Looking back in that era, it’s hard to believe that it could be controversial to become a pro. Thank goodness the sport of tennis evolved and with the Open Era, finally it was a professional sport. But there was a lot of controversy about being amateur versus professional. Laver couldn’t play at Wimbledon for several years. Some of his achievements are not included in the official record.

      Tennis evolved from an elite amateur sport to the all inclusive sport it is today.

      Here’s to Rod Laver!

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