David Goffin became just the sixth player in history to beat both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the same tournament after he ousted the Swiss legend for the first time in his career, sealing the huge upset in the semifinals of the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals having recovered from a set down to do so. With this win, he had beaten three of the top-four players in the world (Nadal, Federer, Dominic Thiem) within the space of a week despite being 2-22 against the top-five before this tournament.
Arguably, this was the biggest shock of the week after Federer strolled through his round-robin matches while Goffin fell 0-6, 2-6 to Grigor Dimitrov just days before, and no one gave the Belgian a chance to triumph in this encounter. However, Goffin went against the odds and proved everyone wrong as he was clutch on the important points to reach the biggest final of his career, being the first person from his country to reach the final of the year-ending Championships.
Fast start for Federer
The first game of this interesting encounter was already a classic, with Goffin having to fend off the merciless offense from Federer immediately from the first rally. Despite his toughest efforts, the Belgian’s costly unforced errors proved to be crucial as the Swiss maestro got the early break in the opening game. Federer then sent in some powerful serves which allowed him to consolidate the break, though the rust was present in the early stages as a couple of errors came off his forehand.
Federer takes one-sided opening set 6-2
Goffin finally got himself onto the scoreboard after more than 10 minutes of play, forcing errors off Federer’s solid baseline game with some precise and accurate serves. However, he still could not find a solution to the Swiss’ consistent wide serves and therefore lagged behind in the scoreline. Everything seemed to be going wrong for the seventh seed, throwing away yet another break as Federer slowly found his groove.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion was producing some incredible backhand winners and soon consolidated the break easily for a commanding 5-1 lead within a blink of an eye. Though Goffin showed some resilience by staying in the set with a tough hold having saved a set point, he crumbled on the return as Federer quickly closed out the first set 6-2 after 34 minutes.
Goffin makes unexpected breakthrough
After being totally humbled in the first set, Goffin earned the confidence-boosting start to the second set after gaining a solid service hold. For the first time in the encounter, the underdog finally made his first breakthrough on the return after Federer came up with several unusual errors on his forehand and Goffin took an early 2-0 lead with an excellent passing forehand. With the break, the Belgian was booming with confidence and comfortably consolidated the break to love.
Goffin sends the match into a final set
Federer got onto the scoreboard in the second set with a relatively carefree service hold but his level certainly dropped as compared to the opening 30 minutes of the match. Arguably, Goffin played his most clutch tennis in the tournament after he managed to fend off the fightback from Federer, holding onto his lead narrowly with some tight service holds. He even saved a nervy break point in the seventh game, bringing himself one step closer to clinching the set. Ultimately, the seventh seed sealed just his third set ever won against Federer with a confident love service hold.
Early break goes to the Belgian
Both players started the final set with an exchange of service holds before Goffin unexpectedly made the first breakthrough in the third game. Federer was affected by a slight misfocus and started to misfire constantly (especially on his forehand side), gifting the seventh seed with the early lead in the deciding set.
It could be nerves which hindered Goffin as he double-faulted on game point while trying to consolidate the lead, and the Belgian was in deep trouble when Federer earned a break point with an impressive forehand winner. Nonetheless, some peak net play by Goffin saved him from the brink and hung onto his lead.
Goffin seals the huge upset
Despite Federer getting frustrated with himself and spurring himself on where his anger looked to be his motivation, Goffin did not slip up on his serve and instead seemed to have peaked in his service games, disallowing the Swiss from finding a way back. The Belgian soon found himself serving for the match in the ninth game, and this time the seventh seed controlled his nerves well as he produced consecutive aces to earn match point opportunities. Goffin eventually sealed the huge upset after an hour and 47 minutes of play, closing out the win with an unreturnable serve.