Tennis: Did Rafael Nadal go down to David Goffin or the court speed at the ATP Finals in London?

The match between the injured Rafael Nadal and the heavily taped David Goffin was scheduled for the evening at the ATP Finals in London on Monday.


The first set between Nadal and Goffin.

The Rafa-Goffin match was slated to be a one-sided affair until David Goffin broke Rafa in the 3rd game of the first set for a 3-1 lead. He, then, gave up that break advantage in the 6th game with three unforced errors, and a double fault. Goffin was the sharper of the two, but Rafael Nadal somehow managed to stay with Goffin. Goffin kept the pressure and broke Nadal again with a forehand winner in the 11th game for 6-5. However, Goffin just couldn’t hold onto that break and gave it up with two unforced and two double faults yet again.

In the tie-break, Goffin made a simple forehand unforced at 0-1 to give Rafael Nadal the mini-break. Then at 5-5, there was an intense point played and won by David Goffin which affirmed that he hadn’t given up yet. He then won the tie-break and set for a 1-0 lead.


David Goffin refused to win the second set against Rafael Nadal.

After 2-2 in the second, we saw Nadal planted seven feet behind the baseline and Goffin putting the pressure to make Nadal run-around the court. Both, however, stayed on serve until the 7th game when David Goffin struck again to break Rafa for a 5-3 lead. Rafael Nadal won the break back with two back-hand winners from his own, and a double fault from Goffin’s racket. However, Goffin wasted another break chance in the next game with a forehand unforced which was enough for Nadal to win the game for 5-5. In the 12th game, Goffin again fell short of closing the match after three break points up at 0-40. Rafael Nadal capitalized on David Goffin’s inability to close and romped on to win the set in the tie-break.


It’s a miracle that David Goffin managed to win the third.

In the third, Rafael Nadal seemed visibly in pain due to his right knee injury and fell behind two breaks but forced Goffin to serve the match out at 4-5. Apparently, by some force of miracle, this time around Goffin did not bury himself under an avalanche of double faults and easy misses and put an end to his, Nadal’s, and spectators’ agony with a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 win over Nadal.

David Goffin was the better player, but his inability to close on the important occasions, such as game-points and match points, raises severe doubts over his slam prospects. He squandered too many game and match-points to unforced errors and double-faults. Goffin’s lack of heart on the big points makes him a perennial also-ran.


Rafael Nadal pulls the plug on his 2017 season.

In his post-match interview, Rafa revealed that he had decided to pull the plug on continued participation in the tournament sometime during the match, but his never-say-die attitude did not betray that. Rafael Nadal put an end to his highly successful season in which he won two slams, a few Masters 1000s, and the year-end number one crown.


Was it the knee or the court speed?

We at 138 mph had predicted that Nadal’s decision to continue playing would depend entirely on his performance against David Goffin in the first match, which would allow Rafa to judge the court speed in a match situation. Apparently, the court seems to be playing too fast for Rafael Nadal’s.