In what is an exceedingly difficult first round for both men, the out of form David Goffin, seeded 11th, takes on Toronto finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas for a place in the second round in Cincinnati. Goffin’s season has not yet recovered from the freak eye injury he sustained in February in Rotterdam and unless results pick up swiftly he is unlikely to qualify for the ATP Finals where he was a finalist last year. Tsitsipas, in contrast, is enjoying the best season of his life. But who will come out on top?
Goffin and Tsitsipas have met three times so far in their careers with all three meetings coming within the last year. The first was in Antwerp last year where Tsitsipas denied Goffin in front of his home crowd in the quarterfinals 2-6 7-6 7-6. Goffin levelled the head-to-head in Monte Carlo, edging out Tsitsipas 7-6 7-5 in the second round. But two weeks ago in Washington, Tsitsipas emerged a comfortable 6-3 6-4 victor from their quarterfinal clash.
Last time out
Goffin’s difficult season continued in Toronto. After looking like he was building some much-needed momentum in Washington, until Tsitsipas brought him to a crashing halt, he never got going in Canada. In his defence, he was facing a talented opponent in Milos Raonic, who played superbly and was backed to the hilt by the home crowd. But Goffin will still no doubt be disappointed by his performance in that 3-6 4-6 loss, in which he failed to win a single point against Raonic’s first serve.
Tsitsipas enjoyed a rather more fruitful run in Toronto. Indeed it was the best week of his fledgling career. He began with a confident 6-3 7-6 victory over Damir Dzumhur, before ousting French Open finalist Dominic Thiem by the same score. The Greek followed that by shocking Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-7 6-3 and ending Alexander Zverev’s title-defence 3-6 7-6 6-4. Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson then fell to him in three, but he had little left to give against Rafael Nadal in the final.
How do they match up?
At his best, Goffin is the model of baseline consistency. He shares more than a little stylistically with former-world #6 Gilles Simon, but whilst the Frenchman was always limited by his lack of offensive capabilities, Goffin is more comfortable going on the attack. He spreads the court excellently with his forehand and can drill his backhand down the line to good effect. His serve, however, is not much of a weapon and his second can be vulnerable to the more aggressive returners.
Tsitsipas generally looks to go on the attack wherever possible. That brand of aggressive tennis coupled with his flowing one-handed backhand is sure to earn him a fair number of fans in the years ahead. But though his backhand is the more aesthetically pleasing shot, the Greek does most of the damage to opponents with his forehand. His serve is also impressive, and he became the first man not to be broken by Djokovic in a completed match since Zverev last year in Rome.
Though of late Goffin has played rather poorly and done little to suggest he can beat a player of Tsitsipas’ quality, one fears the Greek may be a victim of his own success in Cincinnati. He has played a lot of tennis over the past few weeks without much respite and that brings into question how much he will have left in the tank, both mentally and physically. That fatigue should allow Goffin to claim his second win over the Greek and reach the second round.