There will be few, if any, matches remaining over the next week in New York that will both captivate and befuddle spectators as this contest did, housed over on Court 17 amid a backdrop of missed opportunities, physical exchanges and fine margins.
The Belgian prevailed without dropping a set in over three hours of play, but Carreno-Busta, exhibiting the level of tennis which once propelled him to the semi-finals at the US Open and inside the world’s top 10, will rue the squandering of set points in all three losing sets.
Goffin, exhausted but back into the fourth round in Flushing Meadows for a third successive year, said: “It was an amazing match. Mentally it was so tough.
“It was a tough battle, even if it was in straight sets. There were a lot of rallies and I fought until the very end.”
Roger Federer, idolised by the Belgian as a child, awaits in the next round. The wounds of his shock reverse to Goffin at the World Tour Finals in 2017 – when Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were all absent – may have healed over time, but it will provide the Belgian with much-needed confidence heading into Sunday’s clash.
Series of missed opportunities
Nonetheless, his opponent may not be quite as generous when break opportunities arise – although Federer can be guilty of such a trait – with Carreno-Busta converting only one of his nine break points.
In fact, it took until the eighth game deep into the third set until a break of serve for either player. The Spaniard raised his alarms aloft, predominantly in relief, after finally breaking the impasse, but his celebrations were short-lived when he immediately gifted the break back. Goffin then motored to victory.
The world number 15 added: “I’ve been playing well for the last few months. The whole year hasn’t been like this. I’ve had to fight to get back to this level.”
He will owe tremendous gratitude to a hail mary forehand as he stared at a 5-3 deficit in the first set tie-break. The Spaniard appeared to be have the set within his grasp, but the break back steadied Goffin and he would snatch the opener after 71 gruelling minutes.
The second set followed a similar pattern, with Goffin unable to capitalise on four break opportunities in the eight game. The fine margins were such that a tie-break was summoned to separate the duo. Carreno-Busta squandered three set points of his own; The Belgian steeled himself after the disappointment of missing one of his own to convert his second. Crucially, he was in a commanding two-set lead.
The Spaniard found the breakthrough and a fourth set appeared to be on the horizon. Only for Goffin to break his opponent’s spirit and book a date with the 20-time Grand Slam champion.