French Open: Rafael Nadal holds off David Goffin in toughest test yet
Nadal dropped his first set of the fortnight, though eventually progressed (Getty Images/Clive Brunskill)

Rafael Nadal overcame the biggest scare of his French Open campaign so far on Friday evening, with the Spaniard dropping a set to the resilient 27th David Goffin in his third round match on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Nadal, seeded second this year, and looking for a 12th title at this tournament, had eased through his first two matches and looked very solid to begin with here, dropping just four games in the first two sets as he seemed to be easing to another comfortable victory.

Goffin in action (Getty Images/Clive Brunskill)
Goffin in action (Getty Images/Clive Mason)

However Goffin, a former quarterfinalist here, had other ideas, and broke towards the end of the third set as he became the first man this year to take a set off Nadal in Paris, though the Spaniard rallied in the fourth set, eventually prevailing 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 49 minutes.

Nadal holds off Goffin fight back to prevail

Nadal had looked entirely comfortable in his first two matches, and was not troubled in the opening two sets in this encounter, though Goffin proved resilient and became the first man this fortnight to push the two-time defending champion further than three sets..

Nadal had started quickly in both his previous matches, and he continued that trend here, breaking twice as he cruised to a 5-0 lead, though Goffin was able to hold from 15-30 down to avoid the bagel. That, however, only avoided the inevitable as Nadal served out the opener in 27 minutes.

The Spaniard also started the second set quickly, breaking and consolidating for a 2-0 lead, though Goffin held in his next service game to ensure Nadal did not run away with it. The Belgian proved more competitive, but was not a major threat to the second seed, who broke when leading 5-3 to take what seemed to be a commanding two set lead.

Nadal in action (Getty Images/Clive Mason)
Nadal in action (Getty Images/Clive Mason)

It seemed that Goffin’s challenge was over as he faced three break points in his opening service game in set three, though the Belgian held firm and was rarely tested on his serve again throughout the set, and improved dramatically. Serving at 4-4, Nadal perhaps felt the pressure and was broken, with the 27th seed serving out comfortably to send the match to a surprise fourth set.

The momentum coming into the fourth set was certainly with Goffin, though Nadal was quickly able to turn things around, breaking at 2-1 before coming through a tough service game to take a 4-1 lead. That turned out to be the only break the Spaniard needed, with the 11-time champion safely serving out the match a handful of games later to overcome his first real test of the fortnight.