Rafael Nadal met David Goffin in the 2017 Monte Carlo semi-final. The Spaniard trailed 4-2 in the opener before shifting into a higher gear and producing a 6-3, 6-1 victory, advancing into his 11th Monte Carlo final. Goffin secured his first top-3 victory over Novak Djokovic and set the clash against another legend.
David and Rafa met for the first time, and the Belgian was there to fight in the opening six games. David had the upper hand before one terrible call from the chair umpire Cedric Mourier changed the course of the duel. It was another routine victory for Rafa on his favorite ground.
He made the difference with his second serve (12 out of 14 points won) and converted five out of 11 break chances to hold the encounter firmly in his hands after that crucial opener's game six. Goffin played great tennis in the first five games, while Nadal needed some time to find the rhythm and impose his strokes.
The Spaniard entered the zone and cracked the Belgian's game to dominate the rest of the duel. Goffin had 13 service winners, a decent number for him, and Nadal stayed on nine. The Spaniard was 15-11 in front in the winners from the field, firing 11 forehand winners and three from his backhand.
David had five from his forehand and four from a backhand wing. Unforced errors were the segment that buried Goffin's chance to achieve a more favorable result. He sprayed 27, 18 from his forehand, while Rafa stayed on nine.
Rafael Nadal beat David Goffin in the 2017 Monte Carlo semi-final.
The Belgian added 14 forced errors in comparison to Nadal's ten to take only four games despite a promising start.
They were on equal terms in the shortest rallies up to four strokes (25-22 for Nadal), while the Spaniard had the edge in the middle-range exchanges up to eight shots, taking 20 out of 32. Rafa was also much better in the most extended points, winning nine out of 11 rallies with 13 or more strokes.
David created two break chances in the opening game with forehand winners, the best shot in the first half of the first set. Nadal fended them off with three winners and closed the game after an 18-stroke rally. Goffin had a good hold in game two and broke Nadal in the following one to open up a 2-1 gap.
David's tactic was transparent, taking the ball as early as possible and taking time from Rafa's shot to drive the Spaniard away from the comfort zone. For illustration, Nadal committed eight unforced and five forced errors in the match against Zverev, and he already sprayed nine errors after three games against the Belgian!
Goffin had a clear advantage in the mid-range rallies (7-2 after game five, but it would be 10-10 by the end of the set), and another comfortable hold sent him 3-1 in front. He left Nadal with a lot of work to do if he wanted to get back on the scoreboard.
David started to make mistakes in game five, but that was all part of the process when someone played on such an aggressive note as he did. Nadal reduced the deficit to 3-2 after taking an essential 20-stroke rally. Then, that pivotal sixth game was on the board, and David failed to convert those enormous ten game opportunities!
He allowed Rafa to break him and level the score at 3-3 instead of moving 4-2 up. The Belgian was 40-0 up but could not close the game, starting to spray more errors and keeping Nadal in the game. David won the point on his seventh game chance when Nadal sent a forehand some ten centimeters behind the baseline, believing he finally finished the game.
Instead, Mourier came down from his chair and pointed out what was the wrong mark and repeated the point. Of course, this caused an angry reaction from the usually calm and composed Belgian, who could not believe how colossal was Mourier's mistake.
Instead of calling the line judge to show the right mark or bringing the supervisor instantly, David argued for a while. He continued playing and never found the rhythm again, fading from the court entirely. After almost 20 minutes of drama, Nadal broke for 3-3 when Goffin missed a forehand.
The Spaniard took nine out of the last ten games to wrap up a safe win in what looked like a stern test for him in the opening six games.