It may not have been the prettiest of matches, but it was certainly a significant result for David Goffin.
The Belgian, appearing for the first time at the ATP Finals, upset world No.1 Rafael Nadal in three scratchy, gripping sets.
Nadal was clearly hampered by his inflamed knee yet that didn’t stop the tigerish Spaniard staving off four match points in the second set – including three in a row at 5-6, 0-40 – and extending the match for more than two-and-a-half hours.
He promptly withdrew from the tournament after departing the court.
Goffin also sported knee tape yet finally closed out victory, on his fifth match point, with an ace down the T.
It was his first victory over Nadal in three career meetings, with all three taking place in 2017.
After letting slip those four match points, Goffin went ahead 2-0 in the ensuing tiebreak before Nadal rattled off the next six points to put the set to bed.
Impressively, Goffin shrugged off that bitter disappointment to forge a 4-1 lead in the third.
Nadal fought back again, but couldn’t suppress the Belgian, who began the final game with a nervous forehand into the next but benefitted from a succession of Nadal errors, and that aforementioned ace, to finally close out the contest.
“Absolutely it was a tough fight until the end. Rafa is such a big fighter, he’s one of the strongest players mentally in the tour. It was tough to finish the match,” Goffin admitted.
“I’m so happy finally to find the key to win the match. And to do it here, at the Masters, it was really special tonight.
“After losing four match points, I had no regrets. He played really well in the tiebreak, on the match points he played only winners. Just wanted to keep going in the third.”
Earlier on Monday, another ATP Finals debutant, Grigor Dimitrov, outlasted the slumping Dominic Thiem in three sets.
Dimitrov’s 6-3 5-7 7-5 win sees him narrowly on top in the Pete Sampras round-robin group standings.
“I think the best is yet to come. I’m super excited for what’s ahead. This is where I always wanted to be at, is among the top players,” Dimitrov said.
“It’s not only big for me, I think it’s for my whole country, for Bulgaria. It’s great for me to show that everything is possible.
“You push the boundaries, doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s all up to you, everything is in your hands. Basically, whatever you put in is what you get.
“I’ve never been out here. Now I can say that that barrier is broken. It for me was just one of those new experiences that I think I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
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