Little has been heard of the bottom half of the draw in Rotterdam with the focus understandably on Federer’s now-successful effort to return to the top of the draw. But that bottom half has thrown up an intriguing looking semifinal between two of the best player’s on Tour last year, Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin. It’s their first match since their thrilling final at the O2 last year, but will Dimitrov reign supreme again or will Goffin have his revenge?
The two have met six times on Tour so far in their careers with Dimitrov holding a commanding five-to-one advantage in the head-to-head. Their first three meetings actually came before they made it on to the main Tour, with the pair clashing twice at Futures-level and once on the Challenger Tour. Dimitrov won all three of those matches which came in 2010, and then won their first Tour-level meeting at the US Open in 2014, rallying from a set down to win in four.
He then took a three-love lead in the head-to-head with wins last year in the Australian Open quarterfinals and then in the final in Sofia. Goffin had a measure of revenge by getting the better of Dimitrov in the quarterfinals in Rotterdam, however, winning 6-4 1-6 6-3 to put a dent in what had been an excellent start to the season for the Bulgarian. They then met twice in the space of a week at the ATP Finals. Dimitrov won both, destroying the Belgian in the round robin before defeating him an excellent final to lift the biggest title of his career.
Path to the semifinals
Dimitrov began his Rotterdam campaign with a first round win against Yuichi Sugita of Japan, who he’s had some fine matches with in the past. It was a little more straight forward for Dimitrov under the roof of the Ahoy Rotterdam though he was made to work hard for his 6-4 7-6 win. He backed that up with another hard fought win against last year’s surprise Bercy finalist, Filip Krajinovic, coming through the encounter 7-6 7-5. He saved his best performance of the week for his match with Andrey Rublev, however, impressing in his 6-3 6-4 victory over the young Russian.
David Goffin’s first opponent in Rotterdam changed when Benoit Paire withdrew, leaving the Belgian to open against Nicolas Mahut. The Frenchman, one of the world’s best doubles players can be a tricky opponent, but Goffin more than had the answers. He lost just four games in a very impressive 6-1 6-3 win to reach the second round. He then got past another potentially difficult opponent in impressive fashion, accounting for Feliciano Lopez by the same score. Tomas Berdych then withdrew from their quarterfinal to send the Belgian into his second consecutive semifinal.
How do they match up?
Dimitrov is one of the most naturally talented player’s on Tour. He is able to call on a variety of shots that few players can match, although his execution can leave something to be desired. Under Vallverdu he has simplified his style, however, to good effect. He has built up his forehand into a major weapon and at his best uses it to dictate proceedings. His running forehand has also come on massively over the past 18-months and is now arguably the best in the game.
Goffin lacks both Dimitrov’s variety and a clear dominant shot. The Belgian is, however, incredibly consistent off both his forehand and backhand side, but to regard him as only a grinder would be a mistake. The world #7 is well capable of ramping up his power and taking the front foot, as he showed in his semifinal win against Federer at the O2. His forehand is actually quite a powerful shot and he is comfortable taking his backhand early up the line to open up the court.
A key battle will be how well Dimitrov is able to defend his backhand side. Much like Federer early in his career, the Bulgarian has a one-handed backhand that is vulnerable to breaking down under pressure. If the Goffin is able to attack the Dimitrov backhand often and early in the rally then it could be a long day for the higher ranked man. But allow Dimitrov to dictate with his forehand and the ATP Finals champion should have enough to get the win.
This is a very close match. It’s typically hard to call between the two, who are fairly evenly matched albeit very different stylistically. But although Goffin’s only win against Dimitrov came in Rotterdam, it still feels like Dimitrov has the slight edge coming into the match. They have had some close battles in the past it’s usually been Dimitrov who has come out on top, and he has shown that he can blow Goffin away on his day. Dimitrov in three.
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