Nobody really wants to stand across the court from Novak Djokovic right now, least of all a hobbled Gael Monfils. So when Monfils withdrew from the ATP World Tour Finals, citing a rib injury, I figured he was politely sparing Djokovic the hour or so it would’ve taken to thrash him. But it turned out some other unlucky soul was to fill Monfils’s vacated spot: tournament alternate David Goffin.
The Belgian, ranked No. 11 in the world, owns some of the most languid, aesthetically pleasing strokes on tour, and floats across the court as fluidly as Boo in Mario Tennis. He’s even been hanging out in London with all the players in the main draw, serving as a practice partner for several of them. But today he simply stood there to be flattened 6-1, 6-2 in a forgettable match that contained almost no points worth revisiting. At least he pocketed $179,000 for his physical presence, and at least he finessed this lob on the run before perishing from this earth.
Even Djokovic could appreciate it.
In the same round robin group, Milos Raonic beat Dominic Thiem in two sets, 7-6(5), 6-3. Raonic is 6-foot-5 and most of that is two tree-trunk legs. Unsurprisingly, his gameplan hinges on a gargantuan yet consistent first serve, which he slaps at speeds high in the 120s. Even a clean striker like Thiem rarely mustered a return with anything on it, leaving Raonic the whole court to finish off points with his big, flat strokes. (Unlike other big-serving lugs, Raonic does have a respectable ground game to back it up.) Getting broken by Raonic is a death sentence for most, and Thiem’s fate was sealed after that.
Both Raonic and Djokovic now move onto the semifinals, while the other group will send some pair among Kei Nishikori, Andy Murray, and Stan Wawrinka, pending tomorrow’s matches—though for my money, it’ll be the first two.