Buoyed by his stellar season and another year end No. 1, Rafael Nadal will be full of confidence going into his opening match at the ATP World Tour Finals against David Goffin. Goffin will hope to remain in contention for a semi final spot going into the second and third matches against easier opponents on paper.
The only obstacle in the way of Nadal and a spot in the knockout stages will be the usual – his knees. He withdrew midway through the Paris Masters due to discomfort in his knee, likely in an attempt to maximise his chances of success in this event. “Training has gone very well,” Toni Nadal said of Rafa. “We’ve practised at a very high level for this event. If Rafa’s knee holds up, we expect good results.”
Expectations remain high for Nadal who has had one of his best seasons in a long time and picked up two slams in the process, yet he has not managed to close the gap between himself and Roger Federer in the slam count due to the Swiss’ 2 titles in Australia and Wimbledon. He also has multiple defeats to Federer this year, which doesn’t bode well should they meet in the final as many predict.
Goffin remains a consistent force in and around the top 10 and has been rewarded with a place in London due to his consistency and scheduling well enough to pick up the required points. “I’m very happy to see him recovered and playing well. Hopefully he won’t play that well on Monday but he’s 100 per cent here and he deserves to be.” Nadal said of his opponent, who comes into the event with a 54-22 record on the year. 2 of those losses came to Nadal, who won on the clay of Monte Carlo and Madrid in straight sets.
Goffin realises playing Nadal indoors is a much different prospect to clay but is still hugely wary of the threat he poses even if some of his strengths are slightly nullified on faster courts. “Here there is no bad bounce – you can take the ball early, earlier than on other surfaces,” said Goffin. “You can do a lot more winners, so that’s what I’m going to try against him in my first match. But it’s not easy, he’s such a great fighter, such a great defender and as soon as you give him a short ball it’s a winner for him. It’s never easy to play against him.”
Goffin’s chances are likely to come down to how much of a recovery Nadal has made. If there are still problems, it would not be a shock at all to see him cut his season short midway through the tournament – especially with his No. 1 ranking wrapped up.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets