Goffin Edges Djokovic For Biggest Career Win

David Goffin recorded the biggest win of his career on Friday when he broke a 14-match losing streak against the Top 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings with a hard-fought and high-quality 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

Tenth-seeded Belgian Goffin recovered from a 2-4 deficit in the deciding set and sealed victory on his fifth match point when second seed and two-time former champion Djokovic struck a backhand into the net.

“I don’t know why, but the atmosphere on the court was really nice,” said Goffin. “It was really, really special match. To come back from a break down in the third set, then to finish with a long game, some match points, it was really exciting at the end.

“It was tough to finish the match, but I’m really happy the way I finished it. Yeah, it was a great match, a great feeling, a great atmosphere. It’s, for sure, the best win of my career.”

Goffin, who leads the ATP World Tour for most match wins (23-7) in 2017, will next face fourth seed and nine-time champion Rafael Nadal in Saturday’s semi-finals. The pair has never met.

Goffin, who had won one set (2015 Cincinnati) in their previous five meetings, played close to the baseline and played first strike tennis, firing winners when the short ball arose in windy conditions. The Belgium broke serve in the first and fifth games, as he moved Djokovic around the court, to clinch the 30-minute opener.

In the second set, Djokovic took a tumble out wide by the sponsor hoardings on the first point of the second game, when stretching for a forehand. After a brief time-out, to get the clay off his hands and legs, play resumed.

At 1-1, Djokovic recovered from 15/40 in a 12-point game and he won 11 straight points to a 4-1 advantage. Goffin saved two set points at 2-5, 30/40 and Ad, when Djokovic snatched at returns, but one game later he held to 30 when Goffin hit a forehand wide.

Djokovic took control when good length on service returns, helped him to build pressure and convert a third break point opportunity in the first game of the decider. He could have led 3-0, but for two squandered chances as Goffin continued to press. “It’s just unfortunate I missed my chances in the beginning of the third set to go a double break up,” said Djokovic afterwards.

At 3-2, Djokovic held his nerve to save five break points in a 20-minute game, but Goffin then won three straight games for a 5-4 advantage.

Goffin grew in confidence and Djokovic began to feel the pressure. Serving at 5-6, Djokovic saved matches points at 15/40 (ace), 30/40 (Goffin backhand into the net) and two advantage points (Djokovic backhand winner and a Goffin backhand long). In the 14th point of the game, Djokovic got a time violation for delaying his first delivery. Sixty seconds later, after a long rally Djokovic struck a backhand into the net to end the two-hour and 38-minute clash.

“I started slowly probably because I played two long matches,” said Djokovic. “But I thought as the match progressed I was feeling okay. You know, I was physically fine. We had a lot of exchanges, a lot of rallies. David is playing very quick. He’s a fast player. I thought I played very, very well for a set and a half, from the start of the second set. Then that unfortunate game when I dropped my serve, the match turned around. I had my chances, I definitely did. I just didn’t use them.”

World No. 13 Goffin is now 1-14 lifetime against the Top 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

When asked about facing Nadal, Goffin admitted, “It’s the biggest test you can have on clay. He likes to play here. He won nine times. It’s going to be very complicated. He runs all over the place. On clay, he can be a real wall.

“But I do have my own weapons. I have a good cross-court backhand. I can try to dictate the points, not let him play. I saw today that I could be even more aggressive than usual. I will need to repeat that if I want to win matches.”

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