ATP World Tour Finals round-robin preview: Rafael Nadal vs David Goffin

Rafael Nadal and David Goffin cap off the first round of singles matches at the O2 Arena in London. The two will face off Monday night in the last match of the day.

The world number one has been battling a knee injury but his non-withdrawal from the tournament means he is confident that he can perform at the highest level at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals. Goffin on the other hand, has been struggling to find his form after a stellar Asian Swing but is looking to make some noise in London.


Nadal leads the head-to-head 2-0 over the Belgian. Both meetings have come this year on Nadal's favorite surface, clay. Their first meeting came in Monte Carlo semifinal where the King of Clay routed the world number eight. The second meeting came in Madrid. Goffin put up a fight in the opening set, taking it to a tiebreak, but after losing it, his tank ran out as Nadal ran away to take it in straights.

Nadal's Recent Form

The Spaniard decided to play at the Rolex Paris Masters but after two matches, he decided to call it quits in Paris because of a knee injury. Nadal also skipped the Swiss Indoors Basel because of his knee injury, so his indoor form is not the best. 

Before that though, Nadal made the finals of his previous two events in Asia. Nadal won the China Open in Beijing, trouncing Nick Kyrgios in the final. He followed that up by making the finals in Shanghai, losing to rival Roger Federer. 

Nadal is all smiles after capturing the China Open title, his sixth title of the year
Nadal is all smiles after capturing the China Open title, his sixth title of the year  (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Goffin's Recent Form

Goffin was coming off the best two weeks of his life in Asia after capturing titles in Shenzhen and Tokyo, with the latter being the biggest title of his career. Those two titles put him in position to qualify for the O2 and went on to play three straight weeks during the European Indoor Swing to try to ensure that he qualified directly into the World Tour Finals.

The Belgian looked burned out after his triumphs in Asia, where he played three straight weeks with Tokyo coming right before Shanghai. He played in Antwerp, which was his home tournament and was eliminated in his second match to NextGen player Stefanos Tsitsipas

He righted the ship in Basel, making the semifinals before being routed by eventual champion Federer but his run in Paris was shortlived, losing to Julien Benneteau.

Goffin hopes to find the magic he had during Shenzhen and Tokyo (Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Goffin hopes to find the magic he had during Shenzhen and Tokyo (Matt Roberts/Getty Images)


Already due to the fact that this is not on clay, Goffin stands much more of a chance to test Nadal. Goffin's ability to track down balls and hit that extra shot will put a good test on Nadal's knees early on but lacks the power to hit through the court unlike his other group compatriots, Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov.

Nadal will look to put Goffin on the defensive to allow him to attack the open court. The world number one is naturally more aggressive of the two players and is going to look for shorter points. If the points do get extended though, Nadal will still be favored to win those points. Look for the world number one to try and capitalize on any nerves that Goffin may have in his first official main draw match in London, and if he can, it could be a quick one.

Prediction: Nadal in straight sets