Goffin primed to come of age against Federer
Young Belgian earned French Open place as lucky loser – and now faces his boyhood idol
Two months ago David Goffin was playing Britain's Josh Goodall in a shopping centre in Glasgow. Tomorrow the 21-year-old Belgian will face his boyhood idol, Roger Federer, on one of the main show courts here at the French Open.
Goffin, whose boyish face and slight frame make him look more like a 12-year-old, impressed everyone with his performances against Britain in the Davis Cup at the Braehead Arena, but his tennis has gone to a new level this week. Having lost in the third round of qualifying, he earned his place in the main draw as a lucky loser following the withdrawal of the injured Gaël Monfils.
The world No 109, who is making his debut at a Grand Slam event, has not looked back since. Having beaten Radek Stepanek, the world No 27, and Arnaud Clement, the former Australian Open finalist, in five-set matches in the first two rounds, Goffin yesterday became the first lucky loser to reach the last 16 at a Grand Slam tournament for 17 years when he beat Poland's Lukasz Kubot 7-6, 7-5, 6-1 in front of a noisy crowd of flag-waving Belgians. The baby-faced assassin played some stunning shots, including a superb forehand passing shot on match point.
"It was a great atmosphere," a delighted Goffin said. "I'm not very used to that. I don't play in Belgium that often, but there were so many Belgian people in the crowd that I felt as if I was at home on this court. There was an exceptional atmosphere that I've never experienced. Frankly, it gives me wings. You can just play well in front of such a crowd."
Goffin said the extent of his achievements this week had not yet sunk in. "Now I'm playing against Roger and I can't believe it," he said. "When I was young I had a lot of pictures of him in my bedroom. Roger has always been my favourite. He has perfect tennis, perfect technique, and I like the man. From a human standpoint, he is a great person, whether on the court or outside the court."
Federer, who dropped a set for the second round in succession before beating Nicolas Mahut 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, was told at his post-match press conference that he was Goffin's idol. "Not the first time it happens," the world No 3 said with a smile.
"It's weird. It's strange. It's everything you can imagine. I'm happy to hear it, though. It's a big match obviously for him, and for me, too. It's a fourth round of a Grand Slam, after all, here in Paris where I know that the Belgians like coming and supporting their players."
Meanwhile Federer confirmed that, for the second time in his career, he has left his management company, IMG, whose contracts with the Swiss, who is the highest earner in tennis, and with Tony Godsick, his agent, have expired. It was unclear who would represent Federer in future. "The rest is confidential," Federer said. "I don't even know how much I'm allowed to say – and I don't want to speak about it anyway."
Novak Djokovic wasted no time in reaching the fourth round. Having been kept waiting until late in the day because of the length of earlier matches, there was a danger the world No 1 would not be able to finish his match against Nicolas Devilder, but he needed only an hour and 44 minutes to beat the French qualifier 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
Victoria Azarenka made a similarly late start but took just 86 minutes to beat Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak 6-4, 6-4. Azarenka will retain her position at the top of the world rankings if she wins one more match. Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, the world No 3, was one of only two players who could have overtaken the 22-year-old from Belarus by the end of the tournament, but lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova for the sixth time in a row.
Maria Sharapova, the other player who could take top spot, crushed Japan's Ayumi Morita 6-1, 6-1 in an hour, which was 12 minutes more than she had needed to beat Alexandra Cadantu 6-0, 6-0 in her opening match.
Sharapova said that the previous day, when she had waited in vain for her match with Morita to start due to Paul-Henri Mathieu's marathon victory over John Isner, had been so frustrating that it was "a good way to put someone into retirement".
It would have been an opportunity for many players to while away the hours on Twitter, but Sharapova said she is not a fan: "If I'm bored, like eating a bowl of pasta, I don't need to let the world know that I'm at this restaurant.
"I feel like it's just too much every day to tweet and to write. I write enough texts a day. I can't even imagine what it would be like if I tweeted constantly. I'm like, I'm getting arthritis in my thumbs. I already text so much, it's embarrassing."
French Open results
French Open, Roland Garros, Paris: Men's Singles, Second round: (20) M Granollers (Sp) bt M Jaziri (Tun) 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-1 3-6 7-5. Third round: (1) N Djokovic (Serb) bt N Devilder (Fr) 6-1 6-2 6-2; (22) A Seppi (It) bt (14) F Verdasco (Sp) 7-5 3-6 6-3 4-6 6-2; (18) S Wawrinka (Swit) bt (11) G Simon (Fr) 7-5 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-2; (5) J Tsonga (Fr) bt F Fognini (It) 7-5 6-4 6-4; (3) R Federer (Swit) bt N Mahut (Fr) 6-3 4-6 6-2 7-5; D Goffin (Bel) bt L Kubot (Pol) 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 6-1; (9) J M Del Potro (Arg) bt (21) M Cilic (Croa) 6-3 7-6 (9-7) 6-1; (7) T Berdych (Cz Rep) bt (31) K Anderson (SA) 6-4 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-4.
Women's Singles, Second round: (2) M Sharapova (Rus) bt A Morita (Japan) 6-1 6-1. Third round: (1) V Azarenka (Bela) bt A Wozniak (Can) 6-4 6-4; (15) D Cibulkova (Slovak) bt M J Martinez Sanchez (Sp) 6-2 6-1; S Stephens (US) bt M Johansson (Fr) 6-3 6-2; (6) S Stosur (Aus) bt (27) N Petrova (Rus) 6-3 6-3; (26) S Kuznetsova (Rus) bt (3) A Radwanska (Pol) 6-1 6-2; (21) S Errani (It) bt (13) A Ivanovic (Serb) 1-6 7-5 6-3; (10) A Kerber (Ger) bt (18) F Pennetta (It) 4-6 6-3 6-2; P Martic (Croa) bt (29) A Medina Garrigues (Sp) 6-2 6-1.
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