2017 Monte Carlo Masters R2 Preview: David Goffin vs Nicolas Almagro

GOFNICO17

David Goffin and Nicolas Almagro meet for the fifth time with a spot in the round of 16 at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters up for grabs. Goffin won the most recent meeting at last year’s French Open in five sets.

(10) David Goffin vs Nicolas Almagro

It was fairly smooth sailing for the 10th seed as he crushed fellow Belgian Steve Darcis 6-2, 6-1 to start his week in Monte Carlo. There should be some cause for alarm though as Goffin had a lot of trouble consistently getting his first serve in play at just 51 percent. When he did get his first serve in-play, he won just 12 of 22 points. Goffin off-set that by winning 86 percent of his second serve points. He was also routinely into Darcis’ serve, converting on five of 13 break chances overall. Goffin would save both break chances against his own serve.

Almagro rallied from a set down as he knocked out qualifier Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. The Spaniard was mostly consistent on serve, winning 51 of 76 points altogether. He was broken twice on six break chances. Almagro did get better as the match progressed though with only one break chance allowed over the final two sets in which he was not broken. The Spaniard was able to get into Klizan’s serve a lot in the match with 14 break chances. He would convert five of those with four coming in the last two sets combined.

2016 French Open Meeting

Prior to last May at Roland Garros, these two had met three other times, but none had come since 2013. Last year showed that Almagro still has the chops on dirt to trouble some of the best players on the planet. Goffin edged out their third round match 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Almagro had the tougher time on serve that day, landing just 50 percent of his first serves in play. That made the big difference with Goffin able to win 52 percent of the points off Almagro’s second serve.

Goffin would break the Spaniard seven times on 14 chances. Goffin’s defense and return skills once again showed up large when he needed them too. Goffin was able to keep his own service games a bit cleaner in Paris, winning 57 percent of his second serve points and equaling Almagro with 73 percent won on first serve. The Belgian faced 13 break chances, but was able to save nine of them.

Keys to Advancing

This is now Goffin’s fifth trip to Monte Carlo, yet he has never been past the round of 16. He made it that far last year for the first time before losing to Marcel Granollers. One of Almagro’s three wins over Goffin did come at this tournament back in 2013, but the Belgian is obviously a different class of player in 2017. Almagro has made the round of 15 four times previously, but has also failed to progress beyond that point. One of them will get a chance to change that in the next round.

As for the match itself, this should be another tight one. Almagro possesses a serve that on its day can control the action and give him easier holds. One of Goffin’s main weaknesses has always been his service consistency. On slower surfaces, that means he’s usually likely to see break opportunities against his serve. His key is fighting those off. This season, Goffin has saved 65 percent of the break points he has faced. Last year, Goffin saved 62 percent, so he’s improved in that category. Almagro will be weary of facing break points himself with Goffin cashing in 39 percent of the breaks he has faced this season. That is a solid number.

Off the ground, Goffin wants to utilize his speed and defense. That’s his bread and butter. Almagro typically will engage in those baseline to baseline rallies. It plays somewhat into Goffin’s strengths, by allowing him to chase down balls. It can also aid Almagro’s cause though as Nico still possesses a deadly one-handed backhand. If he positions Goffin correctly in rallies, he’ll have chances to finish him off with that shot down-the-line or cross court. He’s capable of producing both shots, but also has diminished some in the consistency category there with age and injury the last few years.

For Goffin, he simply wants to grind Almagro around the court. He’s steady off both wings, so Goffin won’t mind if the exchanges run to the forehand or backhand. When he’s locked in, he can produce some beautiful ground strokes that can match any tier of performer on the ATP World Tour. The Belgian would do well to test the Spaniard’s forehand more often than the backhand, but don’t expect him to be afraid to get after either wing.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

There should be plenty of classic clay end-to-end exchanges between these two. Almagro will go into this one knowing that he’s beaten Goffin before and also challenged him to play his best last time out to beat him. The Spaniard has had trouble winning matches in 2017 however, so it is a more difficult ask for him to score the upset in this one. The win over Klizan broke a four tournament skid, where he had lost his opening match.

Sometimes like a shooter in basketball needing to see the ball go through the net to break a slump, all a tennis player needs is one win to start feeling more confident. I think Almagro will perform pretty well against a familiar and beatable opponent, but the feeling is that Goffin has just a little bit better edge to his game right now.

Prediction: Goffin wins in three sets

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