David Goffin: The art of late blooming

Having turned 26 in December, referring to David Goffin as a rising star may seem unusual, but the diminutive Belgian represents a growing trend across the entire men’s game where players are reaching their peak late in their careers. Goffin sits at a career high ranking of 10 in the world after a highly impressive couple of seasons.

One of the stand out features of Goffin’s year was his ability to go all the way in tournaments. He wasn’t just running deep consistently, he was actually winning titles. Players can break into the upper echelons of the game without having done this, so for Goffin to have won two 250 titles is a great sign for his future progression.

Nobody can predict the future with conviction but there have been a few indications that reveal a bit of what the future of men’s tennis might hold. Players like Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrigos, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and David Goffin have received attention in recent times with their impressive performances at crucial events.

The young man certainly showed glimpses of his talent when he almost pulled out the upset of the year in 2015. He lead the world number 1, Novak Djokovic, 3-0 in the deciding set of their 3rd round match at Cincinnati Masters. He did go on to lose the set but it’s only a matter of time before he polished his skills and came back stronger.

Rise to Top 10

The promise of the understated Goffin had been clear when he broke the top 50 in 2012, the year he made a run through qualifying to the fourth round of Roland Garros— and won the first set against Federer before losing in four. But his progress took a knock after he required surgery to a broken wrist in 2013.

After a first-round loss at Wimbledon in 2014, though, he went on a 43-3 run to the Basel final, winning two ATP titles and four Challengers. He finally claimed, not surprisingly, the ATP’s Comeback Player of the Year Award.

In his 2014 campaign he rose a stunning 91 places in the rankings. His first ATP tour title came at Kitzbuhel, defeating Thiem. This match was an indication of the rise of new tennis players, as this was the first ATP final featuring two players born in the 90’s. Early signs of a future top 10 player could be seen in his performance at 2012 Roland Garros. He became the first lucky loser to reach the 4th round of a major since fellow Belgian Dick Norman did it in 1995.

So to 2015: some decent runs in Grand Slams, a first Masters quarter-final in Rome, and two runners-up trophies in Gstaad and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and sandwiched in between it all have been three Davis Cup ties, with wins for Goffin in all four singles matches.

In his 2014 campaign he rose a stunning 91 places in the rankings and was awarded the ATP Comeback Player of the Year. His first ATP tour title came at Kitzbuhel, defeating Thiem. This match was an indication of the rise of new tennis players, as this was the first ATP final featuring two players born in the 90’s. Early signs of a future top 10 player could be seen in his performance at the Roland Garros in 2012. He became the first lucky loser to reach the 4th round of a major since fellow Belgian Dick Norman in 1995.

The elusive milestone

Now Belgium’s second chance has presented itself with almost unexpected haste, for while it is a country that has enjoyed super-stars in women’s tennis in the shape of Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, Goffin has rather crept up on them. Now, Belgium expects.

For the past couple of seasons, the Belgian player has been around the top 10 ATP but has never gone past the mental barrier. For a professional tennis player, to get inside the top 10 is definitely a primary goal.

Unfortunately for Goffin, time isn’t on his side and his career is almost half done. But, with the new foundation provided by an improved ranking, he is entitled to hope for a long stay at the top. A better ranking means a better draw with no top seeded players in your way in the early stages of a tournament.

For the mid-term schedule, a top 10 spot could help him consolidate his work or even better — move a bit higher if the circumstances permit it.

Goffin has been an impressive youngster, but now it is time for him to rise and deliver. He is 26 and the world won’t wait. What we need to see now is — Can Goffin, this time next year, be preparing for the ATP World Tour Finals?

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