David Goffin faces a tough start to his Swiss Indoors campaign as the Belgian takes on former champion, Marin Cilic in the first round on Wednesday.
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Goffin is still very much in the hunt for qualification into the Nitto ATP finals, with the Belgian starting the week in tenth place, just 200 points behind Italian, Matteo Berrettini, who currently occupies the eighth and final qualifying spot.
The world No. 13 is looking to get back to winning ways in Basel after suffering a surprise opening round defeat to Frenchman, Ugo Humbert in last week’s European Open in Antwerp, thus missing a chance to gain further ground on those above him in the Race to London.
Goffin is seeking a return to London for the first time since his impressive runner-up finish in 2017, a performance which secured him a career-high ranking of seventh. The 28-year-old could not quite reproduce that form in 2018, and was out of the top 20 by the end of the year, with injuries playing a big part in his slide down the rankings.
His indifferent form continued through the opening months of 2019, as he made just a couple of ATP 250 semi-finals- Marseille and Estoril- through the first five months, and went as low as 33rd in the ATP rankings, but he had a dramatic transformation during the grass-court season, reaching the final in Halle- his first title match since the 2017 ATP Finals- and the quarter finals at Wimbledon.
He did not have the best start to the North American hard-court swing, as he lost opening matches in Washington and Montreal, but he picked things up with a runner-up finish in Cincinnati, and a fourth round run at the US Open. Goffin was good in Asia, reaching the last four in Tokyo and the third round in Shanghai, with his only defeats coming against Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The momentum was briefly halted by that opening round loss in Antwerp, but he will look to get back on track in Basel, where he opens against Marin Cilic on Wednesday.
Cilic started the week way down in 37th in the Race to London, and looks set to miss out on the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time since 2015 following a difficult campaign. The Croatian is has only just made his first semi-final of the season, at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last week, where he defeated Ivo Karlovic and Jeremy Chardy before falling to eventual champion, Andrey Rublev in the last four.
Cilic was bothered by a knee injury at the start of the year, and did not begin the season until the Australian Open. Despite reaching the fourth round in Melbourne, he continued to struggle with the problem, and did not play again until Dubai at the end of February.
The former US Open champion won just one of six matches on his return from that break, and when he finally appeared to have caught a break in Madrid, he pulled out of a quarter final against Novak Djokovic due to food poisoning. Cilic was swiftly back in action in the following week in Rome, but he managed just one quarter final in his next ten tournaments- in Washington. He has finally made a semi-final in Moscow, and will now attempt to build on that result this week in Basel.
The 31-year-old has got some good memories from his previous trips to Basel, most notably in 2016, when he defeated Kei Nishikori to win the title. He made the semi-finals in the following year, but fell to Marius Copil in the second round last season.
Can the former champion produce another deep run this year as he seeks a strong finish to what has been a difficult season? He’s got an intriguing head-to-head with his first opponent, Goffin, with both men having three wins each, but Cilic winning the last three in straight sets. Hence, the Croatian should be fairly confident heading into this one, given his recent record against Goffin, and the fact that he’s just made his first semi-final of the season.
Can he record a fourth consecutive win over Goffin, or can the Belgian snap that losing streak and take another small step towards potential qualification for London?
David Goffin vs Marin Cilic is live from Basel on Wednesday, 23 October from 3:00pm local time/ 2:00pm BST