4th seed and world #11 David Goffin takes on the unseeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino for the trophy in Tokyo. Both men have played some excellent tennis this week and have enjoyed good seasons so far. Goffin in particular has struck a rich vein of form, winning his first title for three years last week in Shenzhen. But which man will walk away the victor in Japan?
Goffin and Mannarino have met twice so far in their careers. The first meeting came five years ago in 2012 in Marseille in the first round. Goffin won that much comfortably as an injury hampered Mannarino was forced to retire trailing 2-6 0-1. They did not meet again until 2015 in Basel in the second round. Goffin was again a fairly comfortable winner, as he came through 6-4 6-3 against an outclassed Mannarino. The Belgian also has the advantage in experience, despite being three years younger than Mannarino. Goffin has won three titles so far in his career, and is competing in his tenth final. Though he is yet to win a title at ATP 500 level, he has made three finals already at 500 level. That includes a run to the final in Tokyo last year (lost to Kyrgios).
Mannarino, in contrast, has yet to win a title at ATP Tour level. He has so far made it to three finals at ATP 250 level, in Auckland, Bogota and this year in Antalya. But he has won just one set in those three finals defeats. Moreover, with the greatest of due respect to his opponents in those matches, Goffin is a step up in quality from Tomic, Vesely and Sugita.
Path to the final
Goffin began his Tokyo campaign against Spain’s Feliciano Lopez, who this year won the title at Queen’s. In Japan, however, the Spaniard was outclassed. After a fairly tight first set which Goffin took with a late break the Belgian was dominant completing a 7-5 6-1 win to move into the round of 16. There Australia’s Matt Ebden surprised him by taking the first set 6-2. But a late break of serve in the second set levelled the match, and though the decider was tightly contested Goffin never looked in serious danger of losing it. He completed the comeback win in a tiebreak that he won easily seven points to one.
That earned him a spot in the quarterfinals where he clashed with Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Goffin looked comfortable, recording a 7-5 6-2 win to reach the last four. Eighth seeded Diego Schwartzman awaited him there, and Goffin was made to work hard by the diminutive Argentine. Ultimately, however, the Belgian’s quality told in the crucial moments as he won 7-6 7-6 to take his winning streak to eight matches.
Mannarino faced an early test against home hope Go Soeda. The Japanese veteran has struggled to maintain a top 100 ranking of late, but once peaked at #47. He made Mannarino work hard for his win, before eventually falling 5-7 6-7 after valiant resistance. Mannarino had an easier time of it in the second round where he dismissed Vesely 6-3 6-2. Mannarino again frustrated Japanese hopes, this time in the quarterfinals, where he defeated Yuichi Sugita 6-2 6-4 to reach the semis. Awaiting him there was 2014 US Open champion and world #5 Marin Cilic. The first set was a tight affair but Cilic pulled it out in the tiebreak. From there few would have backed Mannarino to win, but he levelled the match in the second set. From there he was in complete control as Cilic wilted. Mannarino reached his fourth final with a 6-7 6-4 6-0 win.
How do they match up?
Neither man is amongst the biggest hitters on Tour. Instead, they rely on a combination of guile and superb court coverage to win points. Both are also extremely consistent ball strikers. As a result, long rallies are to be expected. Goffin has the more power of the two of them, with his forehand being a useful enough weapon. The serve will likely be a key area, with neither man hugely proficient in this area of the game. That will make free points a premium, whilst double faults, which have caused both trouble in the past, must be avoided at all costs.
Mannarino has done terrifically well to reach the biggest final of his career to date. His win over Cilic was particularly impressive. But it is hard to see how he can defeat Goffin, who will likely give him little to work with in terms of unforced errors. Mannarino is also at his best when deploying a counter punching style, which may fail him against Goffin. Goffin to win in straight sets.
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