In his first final after returning from an ankle injury, Belgium’s David Goffin takes on fifth-seeded Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov at the Shenzhen Open title clash in China. Consistently ranked inside the top 20 since 2015, Goffin is looking for only his third Tour-level title and his first since 2014. Even the far less successful Dolgopolov, ranked 53, has won three titles on the ATP Tour. Will 26-year-old Goffin overcome indifferent form to win or will Dolgopolov snatch an unlikely title win in Shenzhen?
These two met for the first time seven years ago in the Marrakech Challenger in Morocco where Dolgopolov won in straight sets, 7-5 6-3. Dolgopolov also won the only other meeting at the 2013 US Open in straight sets. However, Goffin has become a much better player since then and this head-to-head record doesn’t hold much significance in the current scenario.
Goffin broke into the top ten for the first time this year when he lost the Rotterdam final to Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He also beat 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic at Monte Carlo in April before losing to world #1 Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. The Belgian suffered an unfortunate injury while tripping on the tarp in his third round match at the French Open which kept him out of the grass season. Goffin returned to play on clay after Wimbledon and reached the quarterfinals at Umag and Gstaad. He also reached the quarterfinals at the Moselle Open last week where he was defeated by eventual finalist Benoit Paire. Particularly worth mentioning is Goffin’s performance in the Davis Cup semifinals three weeks ago where he won both his singles rubbers to help Belgium beat Australia.
Dolgopolov, who has had to deal with match-fixing allegations of late, was impressive at the US Open, where he beat the likes of Tomas Berdych and Viktor Troicki to reach the fourth round. However, he was beaten comprehensively by Nadal in the fourth round. Dolgopolov suffers from Gilbert’s Syndrome, which affects his liver and causes him a lot of fatigue. The Ukrainian has done well with drug treatments and diets to compete regularly at the highest level on the Tour.
Path to the final
Seeded second, Goffin received a bye in the first round and then faced Evgeny Donskoy of Russia in the second round, whom he beat in two closely contested sets. Goffin produced a much better performance in the quarterfinals against Donald Young, returning the American’s serves very well to beat him 6-2 6-3 in little over an hour. Goffin’s stiffest test came in the semifinals against 107th-ranked Henri Laaksonen. Not much was expected out of the Swiss but he gave Goffin a run for his money in three tight sets; Goffin eventually prevailed 7-6 5-7 6-3.
Dolgopolov easily beat South African qualifier Lloyd Harris in the first round and then came up against fellow Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky, whom he beat 7-6 6-4. His quarterfinal opponent Dudi Sela retired in the third set of what was turning out to be an interesting battle. In the semifinals, Dolgopolov came up against last week’s St Petersburg champion Damir Dzumhur, who was visibly exhausted and lost 3-6 4-6.
How do they match up?
As the son of a tennis coach, Goffin has a perfect technique and perfectly timed groundstrokes. The Belgian has great ball-striking strengths from the back of the court but sometimes he lacks the power to finish matches. Dolgopolov is easily the opposite with an unorthodox playing style that is much more offensive. The Ukrainian has a very effective backhand slice and a great volley; he likes to come to the net often to finish points. This could be a close contest considering Goffin has the tendency to be caught off-guard.
Goffin will have to work hard for this win but he should get it. The Belgian has stayed motivated even after his ankle injury and is on course for a third ATP title. Goffin to win in three sets.
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