11:31 PM GMT November 19, 2017
The final hurdle may have proven one too many for David Goffin at the Nitto ATP Finals, but the lithe Belgian’s confidence has never been higher as he leaves London. Only an inspired Grigor Dimitrov would bring his first campaign as an outright qualifier to an end.
No man had beaten Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the same event and fallen short of claiming the title. But Goffin was not bitter – he was only drawing positives from the biggest week of his career.
“No, it's not unfair,” Goffin said. “I think I deserve the win today, of course. But Grigor also, he deserves the win. He was unbeatable this week. He played really great tennis, was really solid from the first match until the end. So he deserves completely to be here and to win the tournament.
“Even if I won against Rafa and Roger, I lost the final. But anyway, it was a great week. So I have no regrets after that match.”
Dimitrov’s 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 triumph meant he was the only man to beat Goffin all tournament. He also won the pair’s round-robin clash for the loss of just two games.
Goffin became the first Belgian man to beat a No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings when he upset Nadal first up, before his convincing defeat to Dimitrov. He surged into his maiden Nitto ATP Finals semi-final with an emphatic win over No. 4 seed Dominic Thiem before overturning a 0-6 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Federer in the semi-finals.
It made him just the sixth man to beat Federer and Nadal in the same event and the first since Djokovic to do so at the 2015 Nitto ATP Finals.
“I think after this week I'm a better player mentally,” Goffin said. “Obviously mentally, but also physically. It was tough. “I proved to myself that I can do it. I was at the right place because sometimes you are for the first time in the Top 8, you don't know how it's going to go, if you're going to play a good level.
“I proved to myself that I'm in the right place, and I deserve to be here in this tournament. Then match after match, I took more confidence until the final. So I'm proud of what I've achieved, even if I'm disappointed about the final. “I gave everything. I have no regrets after the final. Anyway, it was a great week.”
It caps a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the 26-year-old, following a freak mid-season setback when he tripped on the court covers during a third-round clash with Horacio Zeballos at Roland Garros and was forced to retire with an ankle injury.
After starting the year with a quarter-final run at the Australian Open and having reached back-to-back finals in Sofia (l. Dimitrov) and Rotterdam (l. to Tsonga) it was a cruel blow and meant he would miss Wimbledon. He found form after the US Open when he snapped a six-match losing streak in finals to claim back-to-back titles at Shenzhen (d. Dolgopolov) and Tokyo (d. Mannarino).
Where a well-earned break is in order for most of his peers, Goffin is not quite done. He will make his way to Lille now for Belgium’s second Davis Cup final in three years where his nation will face the might of France.
Regardless of whether his team leaves France with the silverware, 2017 has already proven to Goffin he’s in the right place and he deserves to be there.