At the end of 2017, David Goffin was one of the best players on the Tour, winning back-to-back titles in Shenzhen and Tokyo and securing the spot at the ATP Finals where he took down Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer en route to the place in the final!
Following a fantastic 59 triumphs that season, David started to struggle with form and injuries (eye, right shoulder and right elbow) in 2018, staying on a mediocre 28-16 score and playing only one match after the US Open to wrap up the year outside the top-20.
The Belgian competed in five ATP finals in 2017 and he is yet to reach the new one in the last 16 months, dropping the previous five semi-final encounters and lacking his 'A game' in the crucial matches, standing on just three top-10 wins since the start of 2018.
Deciding to miss the rest of the last year after Shenzhen, David worked hard to bring the old level and start competing for the titles again in 2019, although that has not been the case so far after winning just four out of ten matches on the ATP Tour!
Ricardas Berankis took him down in the first round of Doha and Daniil Medvedev proved to be too strong in Melbourne, sending Goffin packing in the third round. Filip Krajinovic and Gael Monfils defeated Goffin in Montpellier and Rotterdam before Stefanos Tsitsipas halted his progress in the semi-final on Marseille before the North American Masters 1000 swing.
A former Indian Wells semi-finalist had to bow out already after the second match, falling to Filip Krajinovic in straight sets and deciding to use a different approach in searching for wins and at least some kind of confidence, taking a wild card to enter Phoenix Challenger.
Back in 2014, Goffin had an incredible run in Challengers, rattling off four straight titles in Scheveningen, Poznan, Tampere and Mons and never playing on that level again before this week. Founded 119 years ago, the Phoenix Country Club have the opportunity to host an ATP Challenger for the first time, offering nice prize money and 125 points for the winners, also gathering around 15 players from the top-100!
Goffin was seeded first and reached the quarter-final after beating Roberto Carballes Baena and Casper Ruud, struggling against the young Norwegian but managing to enter the last eight. There, David fought against Salvatore Caruso and the Italian stunned a former world no.
7 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 46 minutes for his biggest win ever, never reaching the top-150 before and with just one ATP win on his tally! The lower-ranked player served at only 49%, hit two aces and six double faults and still managed to oust the struggling Belgian who never found the rhythm behind the second serve and suffered four breaks from ten chances offered to the Italian.
To make things even worse, Goffin was off to a great start although that wasn't enough to give him the necessary momentum and carry him over the finish line, losing ground in the rest of the match against the rival who played better and better as the clash progressed to advance into the semis.
Caruso saved a break point in the opening game but was inferior in the remaining games, taking just five points on the return and getting broken in game three after a loose forehand. David controlled the pace of the rallies and securing another break in game seven when Salvatore sent a backhand long, clinching the opener with three winners in the following game for a 6-2.
Speaking about irony, Goffin landed only 48% of the first serve in to win the set dominantly while having to play against eight break points in set number two despite the fact his first serve percentage went up to 70%!
Caruso broke in game four after a forehand error from the Belgian who broke back at love in the very next game, saving two break points a few minutes later to level the score at 3-3. The Italian had the advantage on his side of the court, creating four break points at 4-3 and converting the last one when David netted a backhand, repelling two break chances in game nine to close the set and force a decider.
Down and beaten, Goffin claimed just five points on the return in the third set and Caruso never looked back, scoring a break in game three and moving 5-2 up with another one in the seventh game, with David already thinking about Miami.
Serving for the triumph, Salvatore held at love to seal the deal and move into the semi-final, his first since Como in September last year.