Goffin enjoys an excellent record in Tokyo, compiling a 9-1 win-loss record on his two previous appearances, finishing runner-up to Nick Kyrgios on his debut in 2016 and then capturing the title – the only one of his four ATP Tour career titles that has come at a level above 250, although he has obviously made finals at bigger events – in 2017 when he defeated Adrian Mannarino in the final.
The Belgian shut down his season early in 2018 due to injury, playing just one match after the US Open, and hence did not attempt to defend his Japan Open title – but if his opening match against Pablo Carreno Busta is anything to go by, he is very much ready to take on the challenge of this 500-level tournament. Carreno Busta had beaten Goffin in Metz, the Belgian’s only other event since the US Open, and came in on great form after capturing the Chengdu Open title last week. But Goffin saved three match points on his way to an unlikely but gritty 1-6, 7-6(8), 6-0 victory over Carreno Busta, to book his place in the second round.
Goffin called his comeback from a set and 1-5 down in the second-set tie-break to win the match ‘a little bit of magic’.
‘It was not easy. [It was a] tough first set, he was playing very good and had a lot of confidence going in. He didn’t miss a ball, and it was tough to find a rhythm,’ Goffin said.
‘He’s such a great player, great fighter and he was serving well. He was doing everything well in the first. So I had to just fight, wait a little bit, try to find my timing, my groundstrokes. It came a little bit, I served a little bit better at the end of the second and in the third.’
The Japan Open draw is starting to look wildly unbalanced, with all four of the seeded players in the bottom half of the draw losing in the first round, while Novak Djokovic and Australian Open semifinalist Lucas Pouille have already come through to the quarterfinals in the top half and third seed Goffin and fifth seed Marin Cilic bidding to join them.
Goffin is looking to reach the seventh quarterfinal of a season that has already seen him make a 500-level final in Halle and a first Masters 1000 Series final in Cincinnati as he takes on Denis Shapovalov on Thursday.
Canada’s Shapovalov is playing the Rakuten Japan Open for only the second time but has already built up some good memories to draw on in Tokyo, having made an excellent run to the semifinals in 2018 via wins over Jan-Lennard Struff, Hyeon Chung and Stan Wawrinka before losing to Daniil Medvedev.
Ranked as high as world no. 20 in April after reaching the semifinals of the Miami Masters, beating Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frances Tiafoe, Shapovalov comes into Tokyo ranked world no. 32 after an undistinguished clay-court season – after having made the semifinals of Madrid in 2018, this year he went 4-6 on clay, 2-6 if you don’t count Davis Cup – and an even less distinguished grass-court season in which he went 0-3 in Stuttgart, London and Wimbledon. He didn’t make up much ground, either, during the American hard-court swing, failing to win back-to-back matches in Montreal or Cincinnati, reaching the semifinals of the 250-level Winston-Salem Open but losing to eventual champion Hubert Hurkacz and edged out of the US Open by Gael Monfils in the third round in an excellent five-set encounter.
Having played for Team World at the Laver Cup, Shapovalov had a solid run to the semifinals of the Chengdu Open last week, but was once more unable to reach an ATP Tour final, losing 3-6, 4-6 to Carreno Busta.
This will be the first meeting between Goffin and Shapovalov, and it could be quite an intriguing encounter. Left-handed Shapovalov has the explosive power, while Goffin’s game is built on being exceptionally solid on both wings off the ground, and being very good at absorbing and redirecting pace. Shapovalov can and will hit through Goffin if the Belgian relinquishes too much ground, but if Goffin stays aggressive and keeps Shapovalov under pressure, I think the Canadian will struggle to find the answers. Goffin plays so well in Tokyo, and should be feeling just about bulletproof after surviving the Carreno Busta tussle; he should come through to the quarterfinals for the third time.
Goffin vs Shapovalov Japan Open tennis is live from Tokyo on Thursday at 3pm local/7am BST
Goffin vs Shapovalov tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Former champion Goffin tries to maintain great record at the Japan Open
David Goffin brings a 9-1 record at the Rakuten Japan Open into Thursday’s second-round clash with Denis Shapovalov in Tokyo….
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