2016 French Open: David Goffin vs Nicolas Almagro

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A resurgent Nicolas Almagro will hope that the past is a predictor for the future as he battles 12th seed David Goffin on Saturday at Roland Garros. Almagro beat Goffin in their three prebious matches, but all came between 2012-2013 before the Belgian’s ascent into the Top 20.

(12) David Goffin vs Nicolas Almagro
Goffin has quietly rolled into round three this year with a pair of straight sets wins. He beat French wildcard Gregoire Barrere in round one and survive Carlos Berlocq 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 in round two. That provided a stiffer test as Goffin was forced to rally from down a break in two of the three sets. Goffin worked over the Argentine’s serve mostly to score seven breaks on 15 chances. Goffin was broken three times himself on five chances. He did keep his winners high and unforced errors low enough with 43 to 28.

Almagro was tidy against Jiri Vesely in round two, winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. Vesely was a mess on serve for the most part with 19 break points dished out. Almagro would score six breaks and only allow two off of four chances on his serve. The Spaniard has some service struggles in this one, winning just 67 of 123 points played. He double faulted eight times, but added ten aces. Those numbers will need to improve if he’s to beat Goffin.

Almagro dropped just one set in three meetings against Goffin in 2012 and 2013. He beat him twice in straight sets at the Miami Open in both years and then in three sets on clay at the Monte Carlo Masters in 2013. Their paths since that time couldn’t be much more different. Goffin has turned himself into a consistent produce that has risen quickly through the ranks and resides closer to the Top 10 than he ever has in his career.

Almagro? He finished 2013 about where Goffin currently sits. Injury struck in 2014 at the French Open that would sideline him until 2015. His return produced a mediocre 18-20 record last season. This year though, there have been flashes of the old form that saw Almagro as a legit clay court threat. He made the final in Buenos Aires in February and then broke a near four year title drought with a win in Estoril in April.

So that brings us to this week, where there has been more good things on display from Almagro. One of the problems for Almagro has been service consistency. When he was and is at his best, he has an underrated serve that can control points. He’s not been able to provide enough of that consistency just yet and will need to show better in that department against the 12th seed. Goffin himself won’t overwhelm with serve on many occassions, but does a better job of fending off break chances than Almagro. For the season, he saves 61 percent to 58 percent for the Spaniard. The bigger difference comes on the break point conversion rate where Almagro only converts 35 percent with Goffin at 41 percent.

This figures to be a pretty good ball bashing fest from the baseline. Almagro still has one of the better one-handed back hands you will see form-wise, but it will be the consistency of that shot that will dictate how well he fares in this one. Goffin is the better mover of the two for sure and although his ground strokes won’t overpower you, they are precise and steady more often than not. Goffin is a consistent performer, but his form on clay recently has included losses to Marcel Granollers, Alexander Zverev and Lucas Pouille.

While all are good on dirt, Almagro will feel he has a chance as none of those guys particularly trump Almagro in any category on this surface. Goffin has only made the fourth round once at Roland Garros. Almagro hasn’t been there since 2013, but is a three-time quarterfinalist at the French Open. This is a big chance for him to show he can still be a factor on clay at the age of 30. He’s definitely not past his usefulness yet as this year has shown.

Goffin is still hunting for a real breakthrough at a Grand Slam with the fourth round still his best career finish at any Slam. There’s been something stuck in The Pig’s chitlens about Almagro making a run this week and he’s got he draw to do it. If Almagro can get some confidence early and push Goffin around the court some with a stout serve, this has upset possibilities.

Prediction
Almagro wins in four sets

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