Hindered by a knee injury recently, world number one Rafael Nadal fell to an inspired David Goffin in three tough sets at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals and gave the Belgian his first-ever win at the prestigious tournament. His nerves kicked in at the crucial moments, but Goffin managed to rebound and clinch the 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 win after a thrilling two hours and 41 minutes of play.
Although his opponent was injured, Goffin kept his composure and remained calm even after losing the second set. This was also Goffin’s biggest win of his career and his first over a reigning world number one. All credits go to both players, who put up an amazing performance for the London crowd.
Nadal withdraws from the competition
Despite knowing that he had some problems with his knee, Nadal still came out on the court to try and complete the match, but the Spaniard made the decision to withdraw from the competition which effectively meant that this was the last match of his impressive season. His compatriot Pablo Carreño Busta will take his place for the remaining two matches.
Goffin makes the early breakthrough
Nadal had a tricky start to the match after Goffin came out firing, producing some excellent backhand winners but the Spaniard came up with his own powerful serves, getting the confidence-boosting service hold in the opening game. Being the first ever Belgian to contest the World Tour Finals, Goffin came into this match as the underdog but did not seem like one as he went fearlessly for his shots, and his reward was an early break with Nadal becoming an error machine, especially on his backhand.
Nadal fights back but Goffin eventually takes the first set
Goffin did a good job in consolidating the break but Nadal did an even better job in finding his chances as the world number one stepped up his game to grab back the break, coupled with the help from Goffin’s unforced errors. The set then went on serve until the crucial 11th game, when Nadal threw in several wild errors from the baseline which gave the seventh seed two break points.
Although Goffin was not able to convert the first, he produced a screaming forehand winner to regain the lead and earn the golden opportunity to serve out the set. The Belgian, once again turned into an error machine when it mattered as he threw in a double-fault to gift Nadal the break back, sending the set into a tiebreak. Nonetheless, he was able to regain his composure quickly and came from a mini-break down to triumph in the tiebreak with Nadal losing all the rhythm.
Tight start to the second set but Goffin makes the breakthrough again
The second set was a huge contrast as compared to the first, with both players stepping up their play and producing some incredible shots while also lessening the number of errors committed. Both players were extremely solid on their serves with little separating both on the scoreboard. After seven consecutive service holds, the first break of serve finally arrived upon us in the eighth game. Goffin displayed his dominance at the baseline with some incredible winners, including a “banana” forehand which wowed everyone in the O2 Arena.
Nadal displays his tough fighting spirit and sends the match into a final set
Serving for the match, nerves kicked in and he was unable to fend off the never-say-die spirit of Nadal, who came up with powerful backhand winners consecutively to retrieve the break back. His fighting spirit and determination were further shown when he fended off a total of four match point opportunities, sending the set into a tiebreak yet again. Goffin was too passive on those crucial points, and he would have rued all the missed chances. Taking an early 2-0 lead in the tiebreak, he soon crumbled down to the backhand of Nadal, with the match eventually being extended into a deciding set.
Goffin edges closer to the win
With the knee being a major issue, few would have thought that Nadal would be able to keep the scoreline so close, even the legend himself. “It was a miracle I was this close in the score” mentioned Nadal during his post-match press conference, and he soon ran out of steam as the Spaniard was broken in the early stages of the decider.
The Belgian extends his lead
Goffin remained calm and composed with the finishing line in his sights, while his forehands were certainly doing the job for him. This time, he consolidated the break to love before breaking serve once more. With a double-break lead, the match was all but over but the Belgian gave the world number one a way back into the encounter after missing a smash on game point at 4-1 up, allowing Nadal to lessen the deficit.
Goffin claims the biggest win of his career
Although Nadal still put in a tough fight, he kept the scores close but still failed to find a breakthrough on the return. Benefitting from the experience of failing to close out the set in both the first and second sets, Goffin controlled his nerves and dealt with the pressure well, ultimately closing out the tough three-set win over the world number one in two hours and 41 minutes.