September 22, 2014

The Comeback Kid

It wasn't very long ago that I, and probably a lot of the tennis world, was ready to totally write off David Goffin.

The 2012 French Open standout had reached the fourth round as a qualifier and went on to beat Bernard Tomic in his Wimbledon opener and reach the quarters at Winston-Salem. He rose as high as #42 in the world that season, and at just twenty-one years of age looked primed to take the tennis world by storm.

But the young Belgian fell victim to quite the sophomore slump in 2013. He lost the first round of every Major he played and had to qualify for most of the summer hardcourt events. By the end of the year he'd fallen into the triple digit rankings, and kicked off this season with a similarly unimpressive start. After losing in three quick sets to Andy Murray in his All England Club opener, it seemed he'd lost all the pep in his step.

Something changed in Goffin after that loss, though -- very quietly he went on a twenty-five match win streak, picking up three straight Challengers titles and then stunning up-and-coming star Dominic Thiem in Kitzbühel for his first Tour-level trophy. He successfully transitioned off the dirt too -- he made the third round in New York, even bagelling Grigor Dimitrov in the first set, and won both his Davis Cup rubbers to get Belgium into the World Group next year.

And he kept his streak going this past week at the Moselle Open. Still just barely seeded in Metz, he won his first few matches easily but really shone in his third round against world #12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, rebounding after losing the first set 1-6 to take out the two-time champion in a two-hour slugfest. He was the on-paper underdog in the final too -- Joao Sousa, who'd taken out U.S. Open almost-spoiler Gael Monfils in the semis, had also made the final in Hamburg, but only won two matches since. But Goffin had momentum on his side -- he fired off ten aces, losing just six points on first serve, and wasn't broken in four attempts by the man from Portugal. After just seventy-four minutes, Goffin was hoisting the trophy, becoming the fourteenth multi-title player of the year.

But Goffin's victory is about more than the prize money and ranking points -- now at #32 in the world, he's at his career high. It's about his resurgence at a time when he could easily have fallen by the wayside. It's still too early to know whether he'll eventually crack the top ten, win a Grand Slam trophy or go down in the record books -- but he's certainly made sure even the greats take notice of him in the months ahead. And with a brand new season just around the corner, there's no better time for him to stand up and make his statement.

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