Fans and pundits were considering Roger Federer already the World Tour Finals champion. Ever since the World number 1, Rafa Nadal, retired injured.
The Swiss Maestro topped the Boris Becker group, qualifying undefeated in the Semi-Finals. But the signs were there to be seen. He never reached his best rhythm. After each match he seemed frustrated and searching for answers, as he found the bounce of both the balls and the court difficult to understand. He had to play too defensive way too many times and that made him wonder.
Semi-Finals day came and Federer met a familiar foe, David Goffin. The Belgian lost all their previous six encounters and people were dismissing him, giving him no chance.
In my previous article about David Goffin I wrote that anything is possible, because he showed great form in the last months of the year on the hard courts. The World number 8 said before the clash that he has nothing to lose and will play freely. He will also try different things this time.
But the match started in a familiar fashion for their rivalry. Goffin wasn’t playing bad, but was too defensive and didn’t took too many risks.
Federer was taking the ball fast and forced the Belgian to always hit unbalanced. For every good shot of Goffin, Federer found impossible angles. He dominated the baseline and came to the net when needed. David seemed disoriented and couldn’t find solutions. He was arriving late to the balls and had to admit that his opponent was far superior in the first set.
Goffin was doing a lot of unforced errors and seemed unlikely that he will claim his first victory over the 19-time Grand Slam champion.
But the script turned upside down in the second set, when Roger had a bad service game. Goffin broke the serve, as he stepped in the court and started taking chances. His return became a lethal weapon, as he started to read the 36 years old’s serve better. The only break taken was enough, as Federer couldn’t find a way past Goffin’s serve.
The Belgian is an all around player, a ferocious base liner, but he never had enough power. But he has another quality that if activated, he turn the things as he likes. And that is his speed. He was staying higher in the court to return and took time from the Swiss, forcing him to do mistakes.
The decider looked similar with the second, as Federer lost his serve early. When served for the match, Goffin did it confidently, making no mistakes to make the shock of the tournament, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
A disappointed Federer admitted that his opponent played better and faster.
David Goffin managed to defeat in this event both World number 1 and 2. He will next meet Grigor Dimitrov in the Sunday’s Final. They met in the Round-Robin stage, where the Bulgarian trashed his opponent, 6-0, 6-2.