David Goffin’s return from injury this summer has hardly been plain sailing and he faces a stiff test in his first round encounter at the Western and Southern Open when he meets the world number 23 Nick Kyrgios.
The mercurial Australian has been troubled with injury himself since the French Open earlier this year, retiring at three straight tournaments before he bowed out of the Rogers Cup last week in meek fashion to eventual winner Alexander Zverev.
Goffin suffered a freak injury at Roland Garros in his third round match-up with Horacio Zeballos – damaging his ankle on the court covers at the back of the playing surface – and only made his return to action at the Croatia Open on 19 July.
A mixed return
The Belgian was enjoying a stellar year on the tour before he suffered the unfortunate injury in Paris, reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, the final in Rotterdam and scoring a momentous victory over Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo en route to a semifinal showing.
But since announcing his withdrawal from Wimbledon to rehabilitate his ankle his results have been mixed, opting to return at the tail-end of the European clay court swing.
He was beaten convincingly by world number 412 Ivan Dodig in the quarterfinals in Umag as the top seed and fared no better in Switzerland the following week.
He was fortunate to come through a pair of tie-breaks in a three-set victory over Radu Albot but he was routed by Robin Haase in the last eight and he entered the Rogers Cup in Montreal with question marks surrounding his fitness.
The 26-year-old recovered from a set down against Japan’s Yuichi Sugita in the first round but he was outmaneuvered by the talented youngster Hyeon Chung in the following round.
Goffin’s play style is predicated on an ability to outlast opponents from the baseline and it is evident that the Belgian is still working to rekindle his rhythm.
An injury troubled Australian
Kyrgios’ injury woes have been similarly well-documented and they began in his second round exit at the French Open.
The Australian complained of a hip problem in his defeat to Kevin Anderson and three months on was lamenting a “sharp pain” in his side during his loss to Zverev in Canada last week.
That has been bracketed with early retirements at Queen’s, Wimbledon and the Citi Open and his withdrawal from Atlanta as the defending champion.
The 22-year-old was beginning to show signs of maturity during the Golden Swing earlier this year and was a couple of points away from sending Roger Federer packing at the semifinal stage in Miami.
The pair have met twice previously and Kyrgios currently owns the bragging rights with a 2-0 head-to-head record.
They first clashed in the final of the ATP 500 event in Tokyo last fall and it was a defeat that ought to have stung Goffin given he could have forced a deciding set tie-break. Instead, he wilted under scoreboard pressure and Kyrgios reigned supreme, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
The Miami Open hosted their most recent rendezvous and it was a more straightforward victory for Kyrgios that time around, prevailing 7-6(5), 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Goffin in straight sets