Nadal’s very participation in the tournament has been in constant doubt after he pulled out of the Paris Masters 11 days ago with a knee problem.
But on Friday the Spaniard said he would play, with the caveat that he could not predict exactly how his problem might react to playing again.
However, after attending his scheduled practice session at 4pm this afternoon, he is expected to make it through at least this first group match and will have the benefit of a full day off before playing again on Wednesday.
No 7 seed Goffin has also has his share of injury problems this year after tripping on some netting at Roland Garros, but is hoping to add a first ever win over Nadal to his record after two defeats on clay this year.
Rafael Nadal vs David Goffin LIVE – latest ATP World Tour Finals action
(* denotes next to serve)
Nadal 6-7, 7-6, 1-2 Goffin*
0-30 and second serve – Goffin can’t capitalise. But unforced errors later and Goffin has two more break points which he just can’t take. How many opportunities can he really pass up against Nadal? Well here’s another after a volley of Goffin forehands finally breaks through…and Goffin breaks! Nadal tries a backhand drop shot which skews wide and the Belgian has first blood in the decider.
*Nadal 6-7, 7-6, 1-1 Goffin
A nice hold from Goffin, whose expressionless face suggests he is pretty au fait with all this. You have to be like that when playing Rafa because he doesn’t really go away…
Nadal 6-7, 7-6, 1-0 Goffin*
It will be fascinating to see how Goffin responds to the gut-wrenching disappointment of thos four missed match points. He goes down to 40-0 rather easily but that reminds Nadal of his weapons with a ripper of a backhand. The Spaniard takes the game though and as we tick past two hours, this will really test his fitness.
RAFAEL NADAL WINS THE SECOND SET 7-6
Goffin has to battle hard for the first point but is gifted the second one by a simple netted forehand. He then repays the favour, flying a backhand return well long on a second serve. Goffin double-faults AGAIN to give up the mini-break before Nadal wrestles back the advantage with a brilliant forehand winner down the line. A slice volley gives the Spaniard a 4-2 lead at the chance of ends.
Goffin comes in behind what looks like a solid forehand but Nadal finds a brilliant cross-court backhand pass. I actually can’t believe some of the things Nadal has done since going match points down and that is just another one to bring up set point four set points, the third of which he takes!
Nadal 6-7, 6-6 Goffin – tie-break
I don’t believe it. Goffin brings up match points again, three of them, as Nadal mishits wide and the world No 1 shows why he is just that, saving all three in style and winning the game with five straight points. Tie-break.
*Nadal 6-7, 5-6 Goffin
Once again, Rafa will serve to stay in the match after a fine hold by Goffin who just seems to be able to compartmentalise and move on. Positive, varied, aggressive, fantastic.
Nadal 6-7, 5-5 Goffin*
Ridiculous tennis as twice Goffin runs down balls he had no right to get to but misses the line by inches. Agonising. He does force a match point though at 30-40 and is ahead in the rally, the win beckoning, before he leaks a forehand wide.
Nadal hits two more winners to hold and gives it a HUGE roar and fist pump.
*Nadal 6-7, 4-5 Goffin
Oh no! In last-chance saloon, Nadal throws the kitchen sink and hits two sensational winners to bring up a critical break point, one after a rapid change of direction that should dispel any injury worries. At break point, Goffin hits his sixth double-fault of the match, showing nerves where previously there were none. Crikey.
Nadal 6-7, 3-5 Goffin*
A truly ridiculous banana of a shot draws gasps from the crowd and a face of amazement from Nadal at the net as he watches it sail past him. An unforced error later and it’s 0-30 but Nadal responds with a big serve and a classic forehand down the line.
But then he misses again to give Goffin break point, and he takes it!
*Nadal 6-7, 3-4 Goffin
An ace and a backhand winner, his 11th and eighth of the match, give Goffin the lead in the second set and this is yet more majestic tennis from Goffin. Really, really strong stuff from the world No 7.
Nadal 6-7, 3-3 Goffin*
Nadal holds to 15 as Goffin misses a couple of backhands, uncharacteristically, to give the Spaniard a relatively easy hold.
*Nadal 6-7, 2-3 Goffin
Brief wobble from Goffin with his fifth double-fault but it never truly threatens to leave him with a broken serve.
Nadal 6-7, 2-2 Goffin*
Nadal’s most comfortable hold in some time as Goffin is starting to look a little bit pained with that left knee. Nothing terminal it appears. Nadal’s knee meanwhile looks fine, despite the scoreline.
*Nadal 6-7, 1-2 Goffin
Two aces close out the game and this is very good from Goffin once again.
Nadal 6-7, 1-1 Goffin*
Woof. Nadal gets out to 40-0 but when he misses a first serve and decides to pop his second into the Goffin backhand, it’s returned past him with interest. Such a clean strike.
The Spaniard then double-faults and Goffin hits another backhand winner, this time down the line. He’s in control of the rally at deuce as well but nets a forehand before losing another long rally despite yet more excellent striking – the Nadal defence is just too persistent sometimes.
*Nadal 6-7, 0-1 Goffin
Top challenge from Goffin as he spots a serve that is as much as half a millimetre in. Nadal can scarcely believe it, but Hawkeye never lies (probably). One point later and it’s a love hold for the Belgian to start the set.
DAVID GOFFIN WINS THE FIRST SET 7-6
Another unforced error hands Nadal the mini-break and a 2-0 lead but he hands it straight back and Goffin has the perfect chance to make it 3-2 but smacks a mid-court forehand on the volley into the net. It’s all square, 3-3 at the change of ends.
Nadal serve-and-volleys at 3-4 but only finds the top of the net with the volley off his toes. It is just a mini-break as Goffin flies his second-serve return long and once again, it’s level when the Belgian nets a very makeable forehand. But he hits four winners in one point, only the fourth beating Nadal’s defences, to make it set point and when Nadal hits the net, he takes the set!
Nadal 6-6 Goffin – tie-break
Pressure is a powerful thing. Goffin double-faults at 15-15 to give Rafa a sniff and he starts to hit such a deep length that the Belgian can’t cope. The two break-back points force a second double-fault and we will have a breaker to resolve the set.
Nadal 5-6 Goffin*
Superb stuff from Goffin, who steps into the court at 0-15 and batters a backhand down the line for a winner. Two Nadal unforced errors bring up two more break points for the Belgian and Nadal’s second serve catches so little of the line that there are audible gasps from the crowd, but it is called good and Goffin nets the return.
It doesn’t matter though as a series of brilliant inside-out forehands from Goffin win him the break and he will now serve for his first ever set against Nadal.
*Nadal 5-5 Goffin
Nothign complicated as Goffin holds to 15, mostly thanks to excellent placement of serves as much as anything else.
Nadal 5-4 Goffin*
Goffin is finding some ridiculous angles with his backhand, hitting an unreturnable and then a winner into the forehand wing of Nadal. But at 30-30, the Spaniard ups the ante again and eases himself out of the game.
*Nadal 4-4 Goffin
Goffin seals his hold with an ace. This the first time he’s played Nadal not on clay and he doesn’t look remotely scared of taking him on. Can he match the power and consistency though?
Nadal 4-3 Goffin*
Nadal seems to have hit a rhythm now. Given that he can’t practice much at the moment it is perhaps unsurprising that he has taken a while to get going.
A couple of wayward forehands give Nadal the game but they as much came about as a result of the Spaniard’s powerful striking as anything else.
*Nadal 3-3 Goffin
Nadal is out of the change of ends very early indeed as if to send a message to Goffin that says: I’m fit and ready. The first point adds to that suggestion as he outlasts the Belgian and a double-fault at 15-30 gives Nadal his first two break-back points.
Goffin does all the hard work, forcing Nadal back into the corner but then hits a simple forehand into the net. Nadal breaks back.
Nadal 2-3 Goffin*
He’s had to go up about three gears in no time here Nadal and he’s managing it, just about, but Goffin is playing some beautiful, flat groundstrokes.
Nadal holds to 15.
*Nadal 1-3 Goffin
Goffin loses a single point by virtue of a double-fault, and then seals the game with two aces. That is impressive from the Belgian and if there are any doubts about his knee in Rafa’s mind, they are being fed by this start.
Nadal 1-2 Goffin*
I do love the noise most crowds make when Nadal actually loses a point. Usually one of mild disbelief mixed with serious concern.
It happens three times in the first four points of game two, giving Goffin two early break points…of which he takes the first when Nadal fires long on his forehand! Goffin breaks first.
*Nadal 1-1 Goffin
Very solid opening service game from Goffin, logging his first ace and controlling each point.
Nadal 1-0 Goffin*
Nice point under the belt first up for Goffin, who might look to go aggressive early given Nadal has been something of a slow starter in 2017. He hits a nice forehand pass but three big Nadal serves, another 2017 feature, give him the lead in the game.
But Goffin produces a fine backhand winner after a Nadal slip to force deuce. A big serve and a long rally later and it’s game Nadal. Obvious already that Goffin will target Nadal’s backhand wing whenever possible.
8.15pm: Goffin has never beaten Nadal but to be fair, he’s only played him twice and both times that was on clay and both this year.
The Belgian might not get such a good chance to do so as today, against a supposedly injured Nadal, indoors where he is not supposed to like it as much and at a tournament he has never won. Here we go then…
8.05pm: Okay so that didn’t take too long and for once, everything is basically running on time. Nadal and Goffin have been introduced by an obnoxiously loud announcer (maybe I’m getting old and grumpy but he’s very loud) and as the Spaniard sprints down to knock up at the far end, there is a huge cheer.
Popular lad that Rafa.
7.55pm: Oh this might delay things slightly. Kubot and Melo have just been presented with their year-end world No 1 trophy and done a wee interview so that’s taking a bit of time.
Not that I’m in a rush or anything. I just don’t want to miss the last Tube, you know. I’m sure Rafa is the same.
7.50pm: That’s it! Kubot is, as they say, “giving it the big ‘un” because he and Melo have won a tight contest over the No 7 seeds 7-6, 6-4.
It means that Nadal and Goffin will be out shortly and a start close to 8pm (although probably more like 10 past) is starting to look on.
7.30pm: Nadal and Goffin are scheduled for “not before 8pm” and it looks like we will be as close to that earliest start time as possible. Lukaz Kubot and Marcelo Melo needed a tie-break to take the first set against Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers and they were up a break in the second – but have just been broken so it’s back on serve at 3-4.
But even if the Croatian-Spanish pairing do level the match, it will be decided by a first-to-10 champions’ tie-break so the chances of it running very long are pretty slim indeed.
Nevertheless, you’ve still got enough time to stick something in the oven and pour yourself a glass of something nice before Nadal gets on court.
Source : EXPRESS