In their sixth meeting on the Tour, David Goffin toppled world no. 1 Rafael Nadal for the second time in a career, delivering a 6-4, 7-6 victory in two hours and 23 minutes. The Belgians had played the group stage of the ATP Cup in Sydney while the Spaniards had to come from Perth and change both the court and conditions, with Nadal not finding his natural balance and rhythm despite a practice run earlier on Friday.
Delivering pale performance in the first part of the match, the Spaniard struggled to keep the pace and impose his shots against determined rival, battling hard for every point from the second set but still falling short in straight sets to suffer only the third loss after Madrid in May last year!
Aggressive and determined to keep his country in the contention for the place in the semis, Goffin was at full speed all the time, dictating the exchanges with deep ballas and opening the court for more than 30 winners that kept the momentum on his side of the court.
The Belgian managed to tame Nadal's first serve, hammering down forehands from every part of the court and fending off eight out of ten break chances to limit the damage in his games and mount the pressure on Rafa. Nadal's usual serving performance stayed away from this match, offering no less than 14 opportunities to the Belgian as he couldn't find free points with the initial shot despite much better display in set number two.
Goffin endured tough service game at 3-4 in the opening set, stealing Rafa's serve in the next game and closing it in game ten for a 6-4. David had the upper hand in set number two as well after an early break, wasting a couple of break chances that could have sent him 5-2 up and allowing Rafa to pull the break back and level the score at 4-4.
The Spaniard found his strokes in those moments but the Belgian was not to be denied in the tie break, gaining two mini-breaks and sealing the deal with an ace at 6-3 to achieve one of his most notable victories in a career.
"I felt my game is back at its best, first against Grigor Dimitrov which gave me confidence, and especially against Rafa tonight. I was able to hit the zone right from the first point against Nadal, moving well and taking the ball early to dictate the rallies; otherwise, I would have been dead against Rafa.
I think my serve was also effective, although it wasn't easy to hold nerves while being a set and a break up; I had to work hard at 4-5 and 5-6 in set number two before the tie break where I played well again to seal the deal, thrilled with the level I produced.
It helps a lot when your team is in the corner, supporting you. Our captain Steve Darcis is a good friend and there was also my coach Thomas Johansson; it was great to have them both on my side, encouraging me and sharing tips and advice, which helped me a lot. "