David Goffin and Juan Martin Del Potro square off for the first time as they meet in second round action at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. Del Potro is back at the event for the first time since 2013 when he lost in the final to Novak Djokovic.
(11) David Goffin vs Juan Martin Del Potro
Goffin comes to Shanghai with an up-tick in form after making the final in Tokyo last week. He was beaten by Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Despite the loss, the week was a success for Goffin as he bounced back from an early exit in Shenzhen the week prior. This will be the Belgian’s second trip to Shanghai after making his debut last year. He went 1-1, losing in straight sets to John Isner 6-3, 7-6. This week’s 11th seed had really leveled off on this surface until last week. Prior to his Tokyo run, Goffin has gone just 4-5 on outdoor hard courts since making the semifinals of the Miami Open in the spring. He also had not won consecutive matches on the surface since the Olympics.
Del Potro meanwhile has been resting since his Davis Cup heroics for Argentina last month. DelPo spearheaded Argentina’s upset of Great Britain with a gritty five set win over Andy Murray. That has been his lone action since making the U.S. Open quarterfinals. DelPo should be adequately rested after a busy summer schedule as he looks to make a run back inside the Top 50 in the coming weeks. That is attainable if he can get through the early rounds of events like this, where the Masters-level points can pay big dividends to his ranking.
Tuesday’s match marks the first between these two in their careers. I think Goffin has the easier prep for this match, having just played Kyrgios. While their games definitely are not identical, Kyrgios’ raw power will have given the Belgian somewhat of a glimpse of what he could be in store for against the Argentine. Del Potro won’t have seen a player with the combination of skills that the Belgian brings to the table in quite some time. He brings the quickness that DelPo has seen in some of his opponents, but not the combo of that speed and shot making ability that Goffin can bring.
Obviously from a power perspective, Del Potro has the massive advantage here. Still, Goffin showed that he can contend with that against Marin Cilic and Kyrgios last week in Tokyo. Against Cilic, Goffin was especially impressive as he broke the Croat three times and was sensational with his own serve. Goffin won 87 percent of his first serve points in that match and was broken just once on a single break chance. Against Kyrgios, his serve was shakier as Kyrgios got a look at 13 break points. He would only convert on two, but it was enough to clinch the title for the Aussie. Where Goffin got into trouble against both those players was with his second serve, which was winning under 50 percent of the points.
Goffin’s return game is among the better ones on tour by the numbers. Goffin ranks 4th behind only Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in percentage of first serve points won off of his opponents. He wins around 32.5 percent of those for the year. He’s also ranked 6th in the percentage of second serve points won at just over 53 percent. The Belgian will need to be on point against Del Potro’s serve to give himself a shot in this match, but the numbers and his recent results, suggest he will have some opportunities.
For Del Potro, he will need to find his rhythm early on serve in order to get himself going against the pesky Belgian. Del Potro’s first serve is a stout weapon, when it is right. It doesn’t always mean aces, but it usually helps him with court positioning by pushing his opponent back. In the ground exchanges, this figures to be fought along the baseline with that being the preferred method for both on this surface. Del Potro’s forehand garners the headlines when he is successful, but the addition of a slice backhand has been very beneficial to his surge this summer. He will use that shot to help himself get in position to hit more forehands and that won’t bode well for Goffin if he executes that plan well.
As for Goffin, while he doesn’t possess that raw power like Del Potro, he can still hit with precision off both wings and cause issues for most. His court coverage is what puts him where he is right now inside the Top 20. His ability to get to balls with his superior speed is often how he upends his foes. He’ll need every bit of that against Del Potro, but that will be the hope he brings to the table. The hope that by getting those seemingly impossible “gets” that he can force Del Potro to hit extra shots that turn into errors.
With all of that, I still think the key for Goffin is his serve. There are times like the match against Cilic, where he cannot be touched. Far more often though, his serve seems to give his opponents a few too many chances to break. An area where Goffin seems to get hurt too often is when he does break his opponent, but fails to keep that lead within the same set. If he’s fluttering into double digit break chances against his serve as he did against Kyrgios, Del Potro will likely make him pay.
For The Pig, the worry here for Goffin could well be fatigue, physical or mental. He played a long week in Tokyo and comes to Shanghai off a quick turnaround from Sunday’s loss. That’s the old Championship Hangover in waiting. As long as Del Potro isn’t full of rust from the last few weeks off, expect the Argentine to round into form and send Goffin packing.
Del Potro wins in three sets