ATP Cup Day 8 Notes
To keep Belgium in the quarters, after the Spaniards won the first match, David Goffin had to beat world No.1 Rafa Nadal. It was a tall order- Nadal led the head to head 4-1. If there was a glimmer of hope, those four defeats had all come on Clay, and Goffin’s sole win had come on hard court, albeit indoors (WTF RR ’17).
Goffin did not shy away from the challenge. He played an aggressive match to defeat Nadal 6-4, 7-6 (3) in 2 hours 23 minutes.
Goffin broke for 3-2 in set 1 as Nadal double faulted. You never quite know what you will get from Goffin mentality wise, and perhaps having his team around him and the atmosphere of the nearly packed out stadium is what stirred him on to put dropping his serve in the very next game and a loss of 13 straight points to go 0-40 down at 3-4 behind him and win three consecutive games to take the first set 6-4 in one hour. Later, Goffin put his win down to his Dimitrov victory and the confidence it gave him, but the team spirit of this ATP Cup seems to be injecting a lot of players with some real grit, and they need it playing in the Australian Summer.
In brutal conditions, both men drenched in sweat, the two got into an equally severe second set lasting nearly 90 minutes and decided on a final set tiebreak. Goffin got an early lead for 2-0 and had two break points leading 4-2, but Nadal was Nadal, fought back, and then broke back for 4-4 with some powerful forehand hitting.
In the final set tiebreak, Nadal hit two errors for Goffin to go up 3-1. 2-5 down, Nadal double faulted. On his second match point, Goffin served it out with an ace for a confidence boosting win.
The beauty of the team format is that, with Spain winning the deciding doubles, fans will still get to see Nadal in action tomorrow, and up against no less a player than Alex de Minaur. Quite how beautiful that prospect will be for Nadal is questionable. The Spaniard has barely had an off season after his Roland Garros win-Wimbledon Semis-Montreal win-US Open win- Laver Cup participation-Paris-Bercy Semis- WTF three setters vs Medvedev and Tsitsipas-Davis Cup win-Mubudaba exho and now cross country ATP Cup play. He could still have two matches in Sydney with a possible one in the final versus Djokovic.
Denis Shapovalov was in a similar position as Goffin tie wise in Canada’s clash with Serbia, the Canadian tasked with defeating Novak Djokovic to level the tie at 1-1 after Dusan Lajovic defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Shapovalov broke with a drop shot on his third break point at 4-4, coming back from 0-40 down. The Canadian then served out for the set and took it 6-4.
Djokovic came back to take the second set 6-1 and the match into a decider.
Shapovalov took a medical time out on the changeover before the third. But he was not perturbed by the speed the second set slipped by him or his physical niggles and both he and Djokovic got involved in a seriously competitive and high quality third set.
Djokovic broke for 5-4, but the Serbian, who did not have one of his better serving days, could not serve it out. Shapovalov was firing off the backhand and coming to the net to hit volley winners to earn break point and a careless Djokovic forehand down the line error tied the set at 5-5.
A loose forehand gave Djokovic a break point in the next game, but the backhand of Shapovalov saved him, not in the way you would expect it, though. After one sublime backhand after another, the Canadian hit a half volley on the backhand, a short ball which Djokovic, in position and ready to got for it, hit into the net. Shapovalov won the next two points, closing the game with an ace, for 6-5.
Djokovic served out to love to take the match to a deciding set tiebreak. A long forehand from a charging Shapovalov gave Djokovic the minibreak. Djokovic consolidated winning a superb rally and then hitting a service winner for 3-0. A double fault and Djokovic had another mini break as Shapovalov complained about the crowd. The Canadian did not give up, staying aggressive and moving in, but he hit a volley into the net and he was 0-5.
A double fault from Djokovic finally got the Canadian on the score board in that tiebreak, but a backhand long after yet another blistering rally, and Djokovic had five match points.
He needed four of them- on the fourth, Djokovic forcing an error from his rival.
The tournament has been great preparation for Shapovalov. He’s beaten Stefanos Tsitsipas and Sasha Zverev and tussled with de Minaur and Djokovic.
Grade A: An inspiring upset and a high quality match with a third set tiebreak means two As in a row from me for the ATP Cup.
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