David Goffin attempts to reach the Japan Open quarter finals for the third time in three attempts when he faces Korea’s Hyeon Chung in Tokyo on Friday.
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Goffin has an excellent record in Tokyo, reaching the final in his debut appearance in 2016 (lost to Nick Kyrgios), and claiming the ATP 500 title in the following season, when he defeated Adrian Mannarino in the title match.
Goffin’s route has been far from plain-sailing this week, but he has survived two very challenging matches to move into the quarter finals. The former world No. 7 saved three match points in his tournament opener against Pablo Carreno Busta, battling back from the brink of defeat to win 1-6 7-6 6-0, while he needed a couple of tie breaks to edge past Denis Shapovalov in the second round.
Neither Goffin nor Shapovalov could engineer a break of serve throughout the almost two-hour contest, with Goffin saving the two break points he faced, and Shapovalov fending off the four chances against his serve. However, it was Goffin who held his nerve in the tie break, jumping out to big leads in both breakers before closing out the match.
“It was tough. He was serving really well and I knew it’d be long sets with some tie-breaks. I tried to break him during the whole match, I didn’t, but I served really well. We were both really solid on our service games and during the tie-breaks I played very well,” said Goffin after the match. “I’m really happy about my performance because it was a good fight.”
Goffin fell outside the top-30 in the ATP rankings in June after a below par opening half of the season, when his best results were semi-finals at ATP 250 tournaments in Marseille and Estoril, but he has been a lot better in the last few months, and has climbed back to 15th in the world. He enjoyed a sort of resurgence on grass, reaching the final in Halle and the quarter finals at Wimbledon, but he didn’t have the best start to the North American hard court season, as he fell in the opening rounds in Washington and Montreal. He finished strongly though, making the final in Cincinnati and the fourth round at the US Open.
The 28-year-old lost to Carreno Busta in the opening round of his next tournament in Metz, but he gained a measure of revenge in his Tokyo opener, only just, and followed it up with victory over Shapovalov to improve to 11-1 at the Japan Open.
The Belgian will attempt to reach his fifth semi-final of the season when he faces former Next Gen ATP Finals champion, Hyeon Chung on Friday.
Chung is looking to reach his first tour-level semi-final since Munich last April, as he continues to seek the form and results that once took him into the top 20, and made him one of the hottest prospects in the sport.
The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals winner was inside the top 20 as recently as June last year following a fine first half of the year, during which he produced a fantastic semi-final run at the Australian Open, and made notable quarter finals at Indian Wells and Miami, but he has been hampered by injuries since then, and is currently ranked a lowly 143rd in the world.
An ankle injury forced him to miss almost three months last year, and sit out Roland Garros and Wimbledon; and he has not quite been the same since he returned from that setback. Chung still finished last season at a decent No. 25 in the rankings, but he went tumbling at the start of 2019 after failing to defend all the points he had accrued from the corresponding period last year.
He has been bothered by a back problem this season, missing almost six months between February and August. The Japan Open is only his seventh tour level main draw participation of 2019. Chung eased his way back into the sport via the Challenger Tour, winning his comeback event in Chengdu in August, and reaching the quarter finals in Yokkaichi. He made an encouraging return to tour-level tennis, reaching the third round of the US Open after coming through the qualifying rounds.
The Korean scored five-set victories over Ernesto Escobedo and Fernando Verdasco before falling to Rafael Nadal in the third round at Flushing Meadows. He was beaten by Joao Sousa in his next match in Metz, but he’s won back-to-back matches in Tokyo, beating Lorenzo Sonego and Marin Cilic in three sets to make the quarter finals. Chung is not necessarily known for his serving, but he produced some eye-catching numbers against Cilic, sending down 11 aces and dropping just four points on his first serve.
“I’m just really happy because this is one of the best wins in my career so far. It was a really tough match against one of the best players in the world,” Chung said.
“I’m just trying to enjoy every point.” “I think it was good serving and I think I played good from the baseline… I’m just trying to stay calm all the time.”
Next up for the Korean is a quarter final meeting with David Goffin, who holds a 2-1 advantage in their previous encounters. Goffin won both previous indoor hard court meetings in Marseille 2016 and Basel 2017, while Chung’s only success was in Montreal in 2017.
“He’s really one of the best players in the world,” Chung said of Goffin. “We know how to play each other because we practised many times and we played a few matches, so I’m just trying to do my best tomorrow.”
Chung’s best is good enough to cause Goffin plenty of problems, and he has been close to that level in Tokyo, especially against Cilic, but Goffin has also been playing well over the last few months, and I reckon the Belgian will be just too tough for the Korean on Friday.
David Goffin vs Hyeon Chung is live from Tokyo on Friday, 4 October from 7:00pm local time/ 11:00am BST