Rafael Nadal’s ATP World Tour Finals campaign came to an abrupt end when he lost in three sets to David Goffin before pulling out of the tournament through injury.
After an incredible season, with wins at the French and US Open bringing Nadal’s tally of Grand Slam titles to 16, the Spaniard had been a doubt to even make it to the season ending tournament at the O2 Arena after struggling with fitness and a knee injury that forced him to pull out of the Paris Masters less than two weeks ago.
Nadal deemed himself fit to play against Goffin, who was making his debut in the tournament, after becoming the first Belgian to ever enter the top 10 in the world rankings.
Despite taking the first game, Nadal’s recent injury troubles were clear from the get-go. Goffin had clearly gone into the match with a game plan, making Nadal move across the court with every shot.
The third game saw Goffin with the first breakpoint of the match, which he successfully converted to make the first set 3-1 after 11 minutes.
The first set went down to a tie-break after neither player could make a breakthrough. Despite Nadal’s persistence with two powerful Aces, Goffin took the first set with 54 minutes on the clock.
Match Point… Again
The second set saw Goffin’s nerves begin to settle, with Nadal’s injury affecting his play more and more. The Spainard’s resilience meant he saved four match points before dominating the second tiebreak of the match to take the second set.
Nadal was becoming more and more frustrated, even shaking his head at fans that had been chanting his name throughout the match and didn’t look like the same man who’s had one of the best seasons of his career to become the oldest person to finish the year as Number One.
The third set took just 37 minutes and it was underdog Goffin that came out on top, taking the final set 6-4.
Nothing should be taken away from what was an incredible performance by Goffin. Despite a string of double faults making his night a little harder, the World Number 8 found himself serving for the match after 2 hours and 37 minutes.
An unstoppable ace gave him his first ever win against Nadal after two defeats this season.
Speaking after the match, Goffin said he had ‘no regrets’ despite losing four match points in the second set, “I just wanted to keep going in the third [set], I just tried to enjoy it until the end”.
The crowd were chanting the Belgium’s name throughout, and it hadn’t gone unnoticed, “I’m really proud to be here, it was really special tonight”.
With Nadal’s 2017 season now over, he has time to fully recoup before he aims to hold onto his Number One spot next year.
Goffin now faces Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov on Wednesday 15th, not before 2pm.