Nadal Beats Goffin For 89th Win At Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal was often at his relentless best against David Goffin on Court Philippe-Chatrier, scene of his 11 Roland Garros triumphs, in a 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory on Friday for a place in fourth round for the 14th time.
Ten years to the day since the tennis world shifted on its axis when Nadal fell to Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round, the Spanish superstar improved to an 89-2 record at Roland Garros, the Grand Slam championship he has dominated since his first title in 2005.
When asked about his mindset when stepping on court, Nadal admitted, "[It's to] play well and win. That's all. My mindset is just go on court with a plan and with clear ideas. And, of course, it's not the same when you are playing well. When you are playing so-so, when you are playing bad, it's always a different approach. That's part of the competition, and that's the sport."
Three days shy of his 33rd birthday, Nadal will now rest to prepare for a Last 16 clash against Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero, who completed an emotional 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 win over French wild card Corentin Moutet in three hours and 28 minutes on Court 14.
"He (Londero) plays very well right now," said Nadal. "I think it's going to be a very difficult match, demanding, but I'm prepared to fight at a very high level."
Two breaks of serve in each of the first two sets, and no let-up from Nadal on serve and in his groundstroke brilliance were initially too much for a resurgent Goffin, the 2016 quarter-finalist, who had performed well in his opening two wins over Ricardas Berankis and Miomir Kecmanovic at the clay-court major championship.
"It was not easy at the beginning of the match, because I wasn't used to the centre court," said Goffin. "It was not easy because he's playing so far back... I started to find some solution in second [set] on my service game because, after [the] first set, I knew that it was impossible to play each rally because he's too solid. He covered the court so well. And so I had to play faster, but on the good one, on the good shot."
But at 4-4 in the third set, Goffin raised his game, ripping successive forehand winners — that warranted fist pumps — to gain his first two break point chances on Nadal’s serve at 15/40. The Belgian went for broke, first narrowly missing a forehand return and then striking a third forehand winner to break. Unfazed, Goffin closed out to 15, winning free points on serve. It was only the second set that Nadal had dropped since losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals.
"David is a great player," said Nadal. "When he's playing well, he's a player that already showed to everybody that he can win against every player in this world... In the first set I played unbelievable, I think, so, so good. Then a good second set, too. In the fourth [set], of course I had to fight again, and I think I became a little bit more aggressive again, and that was, at the end, the key."
With half the main show court in shade, Nadal re-gained the momentum, tightening up his serve and being selective in his net approaches, to break in the fourth game of the fourth set.
Since reaching the title match at the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals (l. to Dimitrov), which saw Goffin rise to a career-high No. 7 in the ATP Rankings, the World No. 29 has posted a 40-29 match record. Read 2018 Flashback Feature: David (Goffin) vs. Goliaths
"I'm going on the grass with some - a lot of positive things. I think my game came back. In this tournament, I was playing well. I was more creative, more positive, more competitive as well. I played two really good matches and did some good things also today. So it's really positive for the upcoming tournaments."