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A higher percentage of first serves has helped Goffin climb the Emirates ATP Rankings.

First Serves Key To Goffin's Ascent

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how the Belgian is nearing the Top 10

David Goffin is just a hop, skip and a jump away from joining the revered Top 10 club.

The 25-year-old Belgian is currently enjoying a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of No. 13 in the world, thanks to his 16-6 start to 2016. Coming into this week's Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, only five players had won more matches this season than the 150-pound (68kg) Belgian.

His hop into the Top 10 would represent overtaking Milos Raonic, who is currently No. 12, then a skip past No. 11 Marin Cilic and a jump over No. 10 Richard Gasquet. This week, Goffin has already defended the 45 points he accumulated last year in Monte-Carlo. So he'll be adding points from here on out during the prestigious clay court event.

An Infosys ATP Beyond the Numbers analysis of Goffin’s game in 2016 versus 2015 reveals first-serve performance is fueling his improvement this year. In 2015, Goffin made only 55 per cent (2380/4293) of his first serves in 57 matches, which placed him 47th in this specific category for the season. In 2016, he first-serve percentage is significantly higher at 61 per cent (980/1595), which has him ranked 26th in this area through 20 matches.

Getting more first serves in play enables Goffin to dip into a higher winning percentage and play more aggressively with groundstrokes immediately following his first serve. In his opening 7-5, 6-0 win over Feliciano Lopez in Monte-Carlo, Goffin made a very respectable 63 per cent of his first serves, winning 82 per cent (23/28) of those points.

Drilling down ever further into specific point scores since the start of the 2015 season shows Goffin’s serve metrics are solid when he is tied or ahead in the score but could use improvement when he's trailing. For example, if Goffin gets to 30-0, he wins 94 per cent of his service games, which is only one per cent behind perennial Top 10 players David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal. At 30-all, Goffin wins 70 per cent of his service games – again only one per cent behind Nadal’s 71 per cent.

But when Goffin falls behind 0-30, the gap between him and the elite players in the world widens. Goffin wins only 32 per cent of his service games at this specific score. On average, the Elite Eight players in the world win 50 per cent. When World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is serving and falls behind 0-30, he still wins a tour-leading 63 per cent of the games.

All points in tennis are not created equal, and it matters greatly when performance elevates during a match. For example, when serving to close out a set, Djokovic has won 90 per cent (36/40) of his service games in 2016. Goffin is at only 68 per cent (17/25). Djokovic has held 88 per cent (86/98) of the time when attempting to consolidate a break, while Goffin is at 77 per cent (51/67).

It’s in these moments that Goffin will look to elevate his game to continue his ascent into the Top 10.