CINCINNATI, August 18, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
David Goffin has been an ATP Tour grinder for seven-plus years, always on the cusp of greatness, but never with a big title to his name. That soon may change.
On Saturday afternoon, in the first men’s singles semifinal of the Western & Southern Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, the 16th seed Goffin cleared a big hurdle with his 6-3, 6-4 drubbing of unseeded and 56th-ranked Richard Gasquet. A four-time Masters 1000 semifinalist but never a finalist, the former World No. 7 Goffin finally reached his first Masters 1000 final in his 50th attempt during his one hour and 15 minute triumph, which also lifted him into his first Cincinnati Masters final in his sixth try.
Goffin will face an in-form, ninth seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who upset defending Cincinnati champion Novak Djokovic, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, in Saturday evening’s second singles semifinal. It will be the third career head-to-head between Goffin and Medvedev – all three have been played in 2019, in which Medvedev won at the Australian Open and Goffin won a five-setter at Wimbledon.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) August 17, 2019
“I’m really happy,” said Goffin, 28, during an on-court interview after his win against Gasquet. “It’s a tournament I like and I’ve played the best tennis here in the past few years. I’m really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”
The 19th-ranked native of Rocourt, Belgium, hit 28 winners and 14 unforced errors while Gasquet, who was attempting to reach his third Masters 1000 final and first since 2012 in Toronto, finished with 15 winners but committed 23 unforced errors. Goffin, who has strung together five wins this week after losing his opening matches earlier this month, in both Washington and Montreal, was solid in winning 77 percent (40 of 52) of his service points and faced just two break points. He broke Gasquet three times and outpointed him 67-44 to reach Sunday’s championship final.
After Goffin advanced to the semifinals by walk-over on Friday, when quarterfinal opponent Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan withdrew due to a bout of food poisoning, it left the Belgian No. 1 feeling perplexed.
“I was completely lost yesterday. I didn’t know what to do,” Goffin recalled. “Do I have another practice session, go to the physio and have some treatment? I didn’t know. I decided to go on the court for some practice and do what I normally do after.”
Meanwhile, Saturday’s loss ended a memorable week for Gasquet, who entered the Cincinnati Masters using a protected ranking after missing the first four months of 2019 while recovering from groin surgery. After stringing together wins over Andy Murray, Federico Delbonis, Diego Schwartzman and Roberto Bautista Agut before losing to Goffin, it concluded one of Gasquet’s best weeks on tour in recent memory. The Frenchman is expected to rise in the rankings to No. 34 on Monday, a week before the start of the U.S. Open.
“It was tougher for me, but I tried my best against him,” Gasquet said, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “When he plays 100 per cent, it’s tough. But as I said, he’s a very good player and he’s very fast and powerful. He was just better today. I just need to recover a little bit now, but I’m feeling great and I can take positives from this.”
Medvedev problem solves way to final
As afternoon turned to evening, defending Cincinnati Masters champion Novak Djokovic arrived for his semifinal match with No. 9 seed Daniil Medvedev aiming for his 10th straight win in the Queen City. Each of the top seed’s three earlier wins this week – over Sam Querrey, Pablo Carreño Busta and Lucas Pouille – had come in straight sets and without his service being broken. All that changed against Medvedev, whose ranking will rise to No. 7 next week, following the Russian’s staggering turn-around 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over the World No. 1.
The match lasted one hour and 43 minutes and, by the end, it was Medvedev – not Djokovic – who was raising his arms in celebration. The win was Medvedev’s ATP Tour-leading 43rd victory of the season and it improved his record to 43-16.
Absolute stunner 🙌
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) August 17, 2019
At the outset, everything pointed to an easy Djokovic victory. He won the first set with the aid of a service break in the sixth game and did not face any break points on his own serve, which increased his consecutive held serve games to 34. By the end of the opening stanza, Djokovic knew exactly what to expect from the struggling Medvedev. All he had to do was executive his game plan on his terms. Soon, Djokovic opened up a 3-2, 40-30 lead in the second set and things were looking promising until they weren’t.
Instead, Medvedev mounted a come-back rally and stunned Djokovic. He took out the Serbian by changing the pace and angle of his serves and fought for every point – sometimes through shear power and other times with a touch of finesse. He kept Djokovic from being able to get into any kind of rhythm. By the time the match ended, it was the first time that Djokovic had lost an ATP Masters 1000 semifinal after winning the first set since 2013, when he lost to Juan Martín del Porto at Indian Wells.
Medvedev has now played 15 matches in the past 19 days and reached three straight finals during the North American hard court swing leading up to the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 26. In the second set, he looked in considerable pain and received treatment on his right arm. Coming out of the physio break, Medvedev won 12 of the next 14 points – hitting 14 winners and just four unforced errors during the middle set – which turned the match around in his favor.
Following his win, Medvedev was asked on court by ESPN’s Brad Gilbert how he managed to beat Djokovic. His response: “To be honest, I don’t know how I did it. I was so tired in the first set and playing Novak I thought I wasn’t able to keep the intensity. Then, the one momentum change in the second set was the difference. The crowd gave me so much energy.
“Usually I’ll go bigger on my second serve when it’s not working and Novak was just destroying me in the first set. At one moment, I said to myself why do a normal second serve if I’m going to lose the point. I started to win much more after that.”
Medvedev finished with 16 aces and hit 36 winners against Djokovic and was broken just once. The defending champion finished with 26 winners and 16 unforced errors and his serve was broken three times by Medvedev, including twice in the deciding third set. Total points were evenly split 75 each.
Now, it’s on to the final, and if there’s one thing certain in a week that’s been filled with upsets, it’s this: Whoever prevails between Goffin and Medvedev, there will be a first-time Masters 1000 trophy winner.
Around the Cincinnati Masters
• Unseeded and 26th ranked Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Filip Polasek from Slovakia, reached the doubles final by taking out Great Britain’s Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski, ranked 113th, 6-1, 6-4. They will face World No. 1s Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both from Colombia, who beat No. 6 seeds Mate Pavic from Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil, ranked 99th, 6-3, 6-2, in Sunday afternoon’s 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time final on the Grandstand.
• Wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova from Russia and 16th seed Madison Keys of the United States will play for the women’s singles crown on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Center Court. The 153rd-ranked Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion, upset No. 1 seed and World No. 2 Ashleigh Barty of Australia, 6-2, 6-4, in their first career head-to-head. Meanwhile, Keys bested 22nd-ranked Sofia Kenin, 7-5, 6-4, in an all-American semifinal. A win by Barty would have returned her to World No. 1 next week. Instead, Naomi Osaka, who retired from her Friday quarterfinal against Kenin with a knee injury, maintains the No. 1 ranking heading into the U.S. Open.
• No. 8 seeds Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic and Andreja Klepac from Slovenia won the women’s doubles final over Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany and Demi Schuurs from the Netherlands, 6-4, 6-1, in 59 minutes on Saturday night. Hradecka and Klepac won 31 of 40 points on their serve and outpointed Groenefeld and Schuurs 59-37.
By the numbers
• Daniil Medvedev’s semifinal win over Novak Djokovic was his second win against the World No. 1 this season, following his 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Djokovic remains ahead 3-2 in the career head-to-head.
• More Djokovic: By losing, Djokovic fell short of achieving a 50th Masters 1000 final, which would have tied him with Roger Federer for second all-time. Rafael Nadal remains the leader with 51 Masters 1000 final appearances.
• Sunday will be David Goffin’s 13th career ATP Tour final and second of this year. He reached the finals at Halle on grass earlier this summer.
• More Goffin: The Belgian No. 1 came into this year’s Cincinnati Masters with an 0-4 win-loss record in ATP Masters 1000 semifinals. His previous losses were to: Milos Raonic at Indian Wells in 2016; Novak Djokovic at Miami in 2016; Rafael Nadal at Monte-Carlo in 2017; and Roger Federer at Cincinnati in 2018.