French Open 2012: Roger Federer snuffs out David Goffin's exuberance
On a day when youth and audacity threatened genius, one moment illuminated Roland Garros above the many others.
It arrived a little after 6pm, with the sun aching to crack the milky cloud cover over Court Suzanne Lenglen. Trailing two sets to one and down 4-3 and 0-30 in the final set, a slim, pale novice from Belgium, only here at all because of someone else's misfortune, feathered a winning backhand volley into the empty spaces, with his opponent stuck in the ochre fully 10 yards from the ball, where he had been manoeuvred against his will. The youth (who looked like he'd popped into the tennis on his way to gigging in a boy band) swivelled in triumph, raised his spindly arm and bowed to the four sides of the court as he drank in a standing ovation from a congregation eager to celebrate his minor but significant triumph.
The splendid stroke at the end of a delightful exchange came from the racket of David Goffin, and the reason for his elation was the man across the net. For all his teenage years, Goffin had looked up at the poster of Roger Federer blu-tacked on his bedroom wall in Liège, and here he was playing the former world No1 in the fourth round of the French Open, his first, but probably not last, grand slam tournament.
The Swiss did not allow himself a smile. As if by divine intervention, the sun cracked the gloom and Federer took the game – on his way to sealing the set and the match in just under three hours – with a backhand so imperiously dismissive it almost blotted out the memory of the shot that had embarrassed him a minute earlier. Almost.
Goffin will treasure his afternoon here in the fourth round for as long as he plays, which ought to be quite a while indeed. Federer beat him 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 – but how could the kid lose when the kid had nothing to lose in the first place? It was like taking marbles off a 10-year-old, then giving them back with a pat on the head.
As the youngest man, at 21, left in the draw, a grand slam debutant after five attempts, the first lucky loser to get this far since his compatriot Dick Norman at Wimbledon in 1995, and – towering above all else – in his first match against the player he idolised, Goffin played with the freedom of the ingenu.
After the shock of the first set, when gasps greeted his every delicate chip and audacious passing shot, he was mastered by the master. But, for long stretches, he had parity.
He moves with the lightness of a dancer and his superb feel for the volley is innate, almost McEnroe-esque. If the result was inevitable, it was hard won. When Goffin puts on a few slabs of muscle the power will augment the silky touch and the instinct for an opening. Or he might fall by the wayside.
But, when he leaves Paris, he is likely to be rocketed into the top 100 around No68, not enough to get him into a Wimbledon but, should they have any commercial nous (and they do), the good men of the committee will surely give him a wild card rather than demand he go through the grind of the qualifiers.
His record is not spectacular. Indeed, in the qualifiers here, seeded ninth, he lost to the 27th seed Joao Sousa, and then lucked out (or in) when Gaël Monfils withdrew with a knee injury. Previously Goffin, who has been on the Tour only a year, had climbed to the heady heights of a losing quarter-final as a wild card in Chennai.
As he reflects on this day – and that rally – none of it will matter a jot.
In a quiet moment, Federer might remind Goffin of his own debut here, in 1999, when he lost in the first round to Pat Rafter. You've got to start somewhere.
Elsewhere, there was more serious embarrassment for Novak Djokovic [...]
Federer sees off 'lucky loser' Goffin in four sets to reach quarter finals
By Sportsmail Reporter
[Published: 16:20 GMT, 3 June 2012 | Updated: 16:38 GMT, 3 June 2012]
Roger Federer will know David Goffin for more than simply being his idol after the Belgian lucky loser gave him a real battle in the fourth round of the French Open on Sunday.
The 21-year-old, the first lucky loser to reach this stage of a grand slam for 17 years, looked capable of causing a huge upset for nearly two sets before eventually going down 5-7 7-5 6-2 6-4.
Federer has now dropped sets in three successive matches and was again below his best, but he was good enough to extend his record of consecutive slam quarter-finals reached to 32.
When Goffin, who admitted after winning his previous match that he had had pictures of Federer on his bedroom wall as a child, was beating Josh Goodall in Belgium's Davis Cup victory over Great Britain in April, he looked a promising talent for the future.
That future came rather quicker than anyone imagined - including, presumably, Goffin, who lost in the final round of qualifying to Joao Sousa before being given a reprieve when Gael Monfils pulled out injured.
From there he has blossomed, beating Radek Stepanek, Arnaud Clement and Lukas Kubot in his first main draw appearance at a slam, and for a good while here it looked like he could do the unthinkable and defeat Federer.
Goffin showed no nerves on the biggest stage of his career and was clearly the better player in the first set.
It looked like the 21-year-old might have blown his chance when he missed three chances to break in the sixth game, but he took his chance spectacularly with Federer serving to stay in the set.
Twice the 30-year-old held on but a third opportunity came and Goffin nailed a forehand winner down the line.
The baby-faced Belgian continued to play at an extremely high level in the second set, and when Federer slumped to 15-30 at 4-5, Goffin was two points from a two-set lead.
For the first time the occasion seemed to get the better of him as he dumped a mid-court backhand into the net, and Federer made him pay by breaking in the very next game.
The third seed dug himself a hole with three errors to go from set point to break point but a superb serve got him out of trouble and he duly levelled the match.
Federer and his camp could breathe a little easier, and from there the 16-time grand slam champion was never really troubled, although he made heavy weather of the fourth set in particular.
That is to take nothing away from Goffin, who thoroughly entertained the Court Suzanne Lenglen crowd, bowing to all corners after winning one rally late in the final set and then joining Federer for an on-court interview.
David Goffin Loves Roger Federer
Posted by Ash Dwight