Saturday, November 18, 2017

Roger Federer ends season early at ATP World Tour Finals with defeat to David Goffin in semis

Well, this was unexpected. Awkward, even, for the legions of fans who had bought tickets for this afternoon’s final in the hope of seeing Roger Federer. But David Goffin, the Belgian who had looked so short of energy in midweek, rewrote the script yesterday by overcoming Federer in one of the O2’s biggest upsets.
Bear in mind that Goffin had never come close to challenging Federer before, in six previous meetings. On Friday, he had sounded nonplussed at the prospect of this semi-final, saying “I’ve never found a key to beat Roger. Honestly, I don’t know what to do tomorrow.”
His low expectations were born out in the first set. Goffin was reduced to the role of a spectator as Federer toyed with him, tossing in cheeky drop-shots and scorching passing shots. But the worm turned early in the second set, when Goffin scored his first break of serve. Suddenly he was the man feeling the ball more cleanly on his racket.
Federer was a step slow around the court now, perhaps tiring at the end of a season that had already brought him seven titles. He couldn’t find a way to recover his early fluency. And although Goffin has had trouble closing against big names in the past – he struggled to finish off a hobbled Rafael Nadal here in his opening match on Monday – his serve helped him over the finish line when it came to the crunch. Two aces in the first two points of the decisive game got him off to the perfect start, and within a couple of minutes he had completed his 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.
“Words can’t describe how I am feeling,” Goffin told the on-court interviewer Annabel Croft. “So much joy, so much happiness, such a special moment.”
It was hard to reconcile this triumphant figure with the hag-ridden one who had lost 6-0, 6-2 to Grigor Dimitrov on Wednesday night. At that point, we wondered whether Goffin was carrying a significant problem in his knee, which he always tapes up, and there were real concerns that he might withdraw to prioritise his part in the Davis Cup final, which will pit Belgium against France in Lille next weekend. Yet if Goffin had no answers to “Baby Fed” – as Dimitrov is widely known, thanks to the visual similarities between the two men’s games – then he was ready to take down the senior version yesterday.

As for Federer, he had won all three of his group matches, but admitted yesterday that he had never quite settled into this tournament as he might have hoped. “I'm not that disappointed that I wasn't able to raise it,” he said, when asked about his level of play. “Because I just felt like I was never quite feeling it 100 per cent. I think that's also where maybe the frustration came in the previous matches.
“I still believed that I was going to be able to lift it. Maybe if David hadn’t been able to lift his game, I would have found a way to win today. Then who knows what happens in the finals. I give myself one more opportunity against a different type of playern
“There's no need to dwell over it, especially when it's the last match of the season. I wish I could have played more aggressive today, but just never really felt comfortable taking the ball on. Started with the return, started with the first shot after the serve. There was never like this simple one-two punch: return, first strike. I never got 100 per cent comfortable with it throughout the entire tournament.”

Goffin, by contrast, has such a quick eye on the return that any slightly vulnerable serves end up being driven back for a clean winner. In this, he resembles Andy Murray, although his delicate build and light-footed movement give a very different impression on the court. He also takes the ball extremely early, using his perfect technique and timing to redirect it up the line at will.
Well this was a disappointing end to an outstanding season.  I would have loved for him to win and go out on a high, but I guess this was not his day.  I'm not too sad however because of the aforementioned reason.  
If it means he gets a few days extra vacation where he allows his body to rest more and is good and ready to take on 2018, I'm totally fine with that. Rest up Roger, see you at the end of December.

No comments: