While the title not only denotes that Djokovic is having a bad season and has lost to a player he had never lost to previously but also the fact that Goffin has risen from the dead.
The clay season is upon us and it has sure had a dramatic start! Monte Carlo, one of the most picturesque tournaments on tour, has witnessed the emergence of younger players, while of course Nadal is still around.
David Goffin has finally beaten Novak Djokovic, both Monte Carlo residents, for the first time in six attempts. This was only their second match on clay, the previous being at the 2013 French Open. With his win over Djokovic, Goffin has snapped a 14-match losing streak against the top-3 players in the world. Goffin has won the most number of matches this year (23-7). In the second set, Djokovic fell down while stretching for a forehand, but wasn’t injured. And a fall during a match has never really stopped Djokovic. He had a bad fall during the 2015 US Open final against Federer, but he did not let bruised knees and aching wrists affect his game plan. But his efforts here weren’t enough to take him across the finish line. Earlier in this tournament, he just managed to go past Gilles Simon in a very tight match.
2017 seems to have caught Djokovic at a bad time. His game has lacked the usual vigour from the very beginning, and it seems to be more of a mental battle for him. Even though Djokovic tries to fend off arguments concerning his poor form by saying that he is more of a family person now and that he is just trying to stay healthy to have a long career, it is becoming difficult for him to hide the underlying issue. Djokovic is the defending champion at Madrid and the French Open, and defending either of these titles is going to be a Herculean task for him, given his current state of affairs. He has been unable to defend any of his major trophies this year so far, Federer claiming all three. Djokovic’s game is no longer impregnable and his lack of confidence just adds to his woes. It won’t be long before Djokovic’s ranking takes a hit. He should be glad in a way that Murray isn’t playing too good either but on the other hand, Federer and Nadal have been on a resurgence path and it won’t be surprising if these two claim the top two spots by the end of the season. Djokovic’s poor form might overshadow the fact that Goffin played a superb match and took the match away from Djokovic after being 2-4 down in the third set. Djokovic is ranked 25th in the Race to London with just 475 points this season so far. Last year, Djokovic had qualified for the World Tour Finals before the French Open, which is surely not gonna be the case this year. As of now, it would not be totally out of play of speculate if he could qualify at all.
The other half of the draw opened up with Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka’s losses. Albert Ramos followed up his victory over Murray by beating Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals. He will play L Pouille in the other semi-final.
David Goffin will face 9-time champion Rafa Nadal next, whom he has never played against. Should he win this match, this could qualify as the biggest win of his career. Beating Nadal, that too on clay and in a tournament that he has won 9 times is a dream Goffin shares with most of the players on tour. Rafa Nadal trounced Alexander Zverev 6-1,6-1 en route to the semi-finals and seems to be in his usual Monte Carlo-form. Nadal has reached three finals this year but is yet to win a title, which wouldn’t be the case by the time the clay season ends. These couple of months are when Nadal dictates the ranking, the titles and the confidence of everyone around him.
Goffin’s 2017 season is already turning heads and it won’t be long before we find him in the later rounds of Grand Slams. Murray has accepted a last-minute wild card at Barcelona to be able to get some more matches on clay under his belt before the French Open where he would be defending 1200 points. He also has his Rome Masters title from last year to defend.
Picture credit: lequipe.fr