Goffin's Quest For Confidence
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on 24 March. David Goffin, a finalist at the Western & Southern Open, is the first Belgian to reach a championship match at an ATP Masters 1000 event.
The past 13 months have not been easy for David Goffin. After reaching the championship match at the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals, he missed four weeks early in 2018 due to a freak accident in the Rotterdam semi-finals that resulted in an eye injury. After making the semi-finals at Cincinnati in August, any momentum he gained came to a halt when he missed the final five weeks of the season due to an elbow injury.
But the Belgian takes solace in knowing that all it takes is one moment to turn it all around.
“It’s just been a tough period and I just need some confidence. I have it in practice, so that’s why I’m really positive,” Goffin told ATPTour.com. “Sometimes it could be a good match, a good battle, a good win or a good result in a tournament just to give me some confidence and just to see that I can do it and I’m still there and I have the level. It’s much better already this week.”
From 2014-17, Goffin built up confidence as he steadily improved his game. Each year, he broke a new milestone in the year-end ATP Rankings; first it was the Top 25, then the Top 20, the Top 15, and finally the Top 10 after his performance at the season finale in London two seasons ago.
“All of a sudden you start to have a lot of injuries, an accident, a fracture to my elbow and then changing my coach. It was like you have to rebuild a new base for the future and make a completely refined project because there’s something different, you want to change,” Goffin said. “I’m 28 now, so maybe it’s time to do something else for the next four or five years to still improve and I think it could be the best years in front of me in my career. It’s different, but it could take some time and I know that, so I’m patient and I hope it’s going to pay off.”
Goffin has recently reunited with 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson, who is his lone coach. The Swede spent time with Goffin in 2016, so there is plenty of familiarity between the two. They officially began their partnership after Marseille in February.
“I’m really happy to be back and now it’s the third week we’re working together on the [ATP] Tour,” Johansson said. “The good thing about that is we don’t need the ‘get to know each other’ time, because we know each other really well and we had a lot of contact even when we weren’t working together.”
Johansson acknowledges that Goffin, currently World No. 20, will have to dig deep to return to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, having peaked at No. 7 in 2017. According to him, it may be even tougher now.
“I think it’s more challenging, because the depth in tennis now is amazing. Now is the first time ever that the youngsters are coming up and they’re actually challenging the big guns,” Johansson said. “So for me it’s extremely tough for a player like David to come back to the Top 10. But that’s our big goal, to try to achieve that.”
Listen To ATP Radio's Interview With Johansson:
Goffin and Johansson are not making any major changes, as the Belgian’s game isn’t far off. He simply is fine-tuning various aspects of his game and hoping that piecing all of that together can make for a big pay-off.
“Just small details that I can do to be a little more aggressive, how I can be at the net, improve the serve and maybe the zone, the target where I hit the serve to be ready for the next shot on my groundstrokes,” Goffin said. “So it can be small details, but it could make a difference to be more aggressive.”
Goffin, who was 4-6 at tour-level entering this ATP Masters 1000 event, is into the third round of the Miami Open presented by Itau, where he will face 14th seed Marco Cecchinato. But he’s not dreaming of any specific goals. He’s simply working hard daily to try to regain his form.
“For the moment it’s just to come back at my best level and to be competitive match after match. I think it’s not perfect yet, but I’m improving. The good thing is I’m playing really well during practice,” Goffin said. “It could be one match, it could be a set. Sometimes you like to open the bottle and then you can be fine, so I’m still working hard. We are working together during practice and I know it’s going to come. Sometimes I play well, but I have to play well during the whole match. It’s better and better day after day.”
After speaking to ATPTour.com shortly after his second-round victory against Pablo Andujar, Goffin, racquets in hand, headed back towards the practice courts with Johansson.
“I’m just trying now to enjoy it. I enjoy every moment during practice. I just want to feel the same during every match to come back to play very relaxed, to hit every shot — and not tight — and to be creative; to create every point, to be aggressive, just play, because that’s what I love. I’m sure if I’m with this attitude, a good attitude, I think I can come back at my best and the results will come.”