Seven-time champion Roger Federer will look to reach his eighth Cincinnati final when he takes on Belgium’s David Goffin. Federer’s Wimbledon campaign ended in disappointment, but he has looked sharp so far in Ohio and a title here would do much to get his season back on track. Goffin, meanwhile, has reached three Masters semifinals previously and has lost all of them. But after an injury hit season, he looks to finally have found some form. Who will come out on top?
Federer and Goffin have met seven-times in a rivalry the Swiss has, for the most part, dominated. Indeed, after winning their first match, at Roland Garros in 2012, 5-7 7-5 6-2 6-4, he won the next five without dropping a set. That included a 6-2 6-2 win in the final in Basel in 2014 and a 6-2 6-1 6-4 win in the fourth round in Melbourne in 2016. But, in their most recent match, which came at the ATP Finals in the last four in 2017, Goffin rallied from a set down to win in three, 2-6 6-3 6-4.
Path to the semifinals
Federer, the second seed in Cincinnati, began his campaign against Peter Gojowczyk of Germany after a first-round bye. Gojowczyk, last year a titlist in Metz, gave a good account of himself but was ultimately overrun by Federer 6-4 6-4. Rain then washed out his third-round match with Leonardo Mayer, forcing him to play it on the same day as a potential quarterfinal. But he dismissed the Argentine 6-1 7-6 before battling past his compatriot Stan Wawrinka 6-7 7-6 6-2.
Goffin was without the luxury of a bye, and opened his tournament against the in-form Stefanos Tsitsipas, who reached the final in Toronto last week. But the Greek was understandably not at his sharpest mentally or physically, and Goffin won 7-5 6-3. He then recovered from losing the first set to Benoit Paire 5-7 6-4 6-2 before dispatching Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson 6-4 6-2. Goffin then edged out world #3 Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 7-6.
How do they match up?
Federer is amongst the most gifted attacking players of this or any other generation. He has the quality to dictate from the back of the court, with his forehand doing most of the offensive heavy lifting but his backhand dangerous in its own right, and the skill to finish points in the forecourt. Indeed, Federer arrived in the era of serve-and-volleyers and though he has long since evolved beyond that style, it is a tactic he is still extremely comfortable utilising.
Goffin cannot match Federer’s versatility nor is he nearly as comfortable on the front foot. But he is an excellent mover and is superbly consistent from the back of the court. Drawing errors from the Belgian’s racquet is akin to drawing blood from a stone when he is at his best. But he does have weapons and in London used them to good effect. He moved Federer around almost constantly, and drilled his backhand down the line with particularly impressive results.
As well as Goffin played at the O2 last November, when these two have met it has usually been Federer who has claimed the win, and fairly comfortably at that. Too often Goffin has ceded too much of the initiative to Federer and that is a mistake almost impossible to recover from. He is also virtually on Federer’s home turf so successful and well-supported is Federer in Ohio. That does not bode well for the 11th seed. Federer in straight sets.