© Hiroshi Sato

David Goffin owns a 12-1 record at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships.

Goffin Reveals The Keys To Facing An In-Form Djokovic

Belgian bidding to reach third Tokyo final

One of the words World No. 1 Novak Djokovic used to describe his performance in his 50-minute Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships victory against Lucas Pouille was “flawless”.

So if Djokovic replicates that level in his semi-final Saturday, how will 2017 Tokyo champion David Goffin, who owns a 12-1 record at this ATP 500 event, find a way to overcome that challenge?

“You want to do your job... it doesn’t matter what’s the score. You want to stay in the match and try to do your job. And then sometimes you have some chances, some opportunities you have to take to maybe do some damage, because you don’t have a lot of opportunities when you play those guys,” Goffin said. “You just have a couple of small ones and you have to take it. Hopefully that will be the case tomorrow.”

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Goffin trails Djokovic 1-6 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. And in their most recent meeting, in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon this year, the Belgian managed to win only six games despite feeling that he did not play poorly.

“Sometimes you try different things when you play the best ones many times and you lost a few times, so you have to change sometimes. Sometimes you find a little solution, but it was close. Sometimes you try a different one, but it was not the right one,” Goffin said. “Sometimes you’re not feeling great, sometimes you’re feeling well, so it depends. But for the moment, it’s always better to go onto the court with some confidence. That’s the case for the moment for me, so it’s always better [that way] before playing against Novak.”

Goffin put forth his own strong performance in the last eight, taking just 54 minutes to eliminate 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung. The third seed believes one part of his game in particular is shining right now, and he thinks that can be a key against the top seed.

“For the moment, if you saw tonight, it’s the serve. So I’m going to have to serve like that tomorrow. But it’s not easy, because he’s the best returner in the world,” Goffin said. “I have to serve well, I have to serve smart and try to have some free points. Normally he doesn’t give a return [away]. At least he makes it, and then it’s tough to make the point after.

“If I have free points sometimes in my service games, it will help. And then I have to play well on my baseline, try to stay with him, try to stay solid and when I have a small chance during the rally to be aggressive and to take the opportunity in the game, to be aggressive and go forward, I will have to take it.”

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Goffin won 90 per cent of his first-serve points (27/30) against Chung, and he also made 77 per cent of his first deliveries to make it even tougher for the South Korean to work his way into points. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up knows that staying on top of Djokovic will be important.

“He puts pressure on every point. He’s returning everything very long, just next to the baseline. And then during the point he puts pressure. He takes the ball early, he makes you run a lot, so you never feel comfortable when you play against him because he’s always playing really fast and really precise all the time,” Goffin said. “It’s not like playing Roger when you feel like you receive winners all the time. But when it’s Novak, you have the feeling that it’s very solid.

“He doesn’t miss, he doesn’t give anything. [His shots are] long and he’s moving so well, so it’s tough to find a solution because you’re always in a bad position to play a shot. So that’s why it’s not easy to play against him.”

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