If ever there was a role reversal in tennis, it was this one. While David Goffin lost in the final round of Wimbledon qualifying last year, Bernard Tomic became the youngest quarter-finalist since Boris Becker in 1986. This year it was the slightly older yet notably less experienced Goffin who underlined his status as a rising star of the men’s game to confidently outclass the 20th seeded Australian with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Where Tomic entered the Championships with a 14-10 Grand Slam record – impressive for a 19-year-old – Goffin was playing only his second Grand Slam event and first Wimbledon main draw. Still, the 21-year-old Belgian took a set from Roger Federer in a fourth-round finish at the French Open, and there were early signs he could find some similar form at the All England Club.
Goffin showcased his potential by moving into the net to claim the first point of his first service game and secured the second point with an ace. While Goffin would drop that game and the first set, he also recognised his opportunities.
After holding serve to love in the first game of the second set, Goffin pounced by claiming his first service break of the match in the next game. Tomic broke back immediately, but the Belgian secured another break in the sixth game and went on to claim the set.
With Tomic uncharacteristically defensive and surrendering many points through unforced errors – the 32 in total outnumbering his 27 winners – the increasingly relaxed Goffin found touch on his ground-strokes and was unafraid to attack at the net. Amid the telling statistics for the Belgian were 11 aces, 39 winners and success in 22 of his 27 forays into the net.
Perhaps more important, though, was the Belgian’s mindset; Goffin later alluding to the importance of maintaining his positivity after losing the first set. “It wasn’t a good start … but I was feeling good and then continued to keep focus in my game,” he said.
It was a focus that extended throughout the match but the Belgian jokingly conceded that his business-like demeanour didn’t necessarily match his emotions as he closed out the match in the fourth set. “I was a little bit nervous inside, but I tried to stay focused and to doesn't show anything on my face, like Bjorn Borg,” he smiled.
“With this attitude, that’s the best way to manage the important game or important point. So I tried to stay calm.”
A candid Tomic viewed the loss as an important reminder of the standards required at the top of the men’s game. “I think I lost because he played much better and I wasn't playing the right tennis. No excuse,” said the Australian, admitting that a concentration lapse was costly. “You know, people want to get back into the match, and I allowed him to get back.”
With Tomic entering Wimbledon with the expectation born of his quarter-final run in 2011 and considerable rankings points to defend, some of that pressure now transfers to Goffin – not that the Belgian appears to be struggling with it.
“It’s a good pressure. I want to do my best, first for me, and then for my family and for Belgium,” he said. “I have no more pressure than before. I’m feeling good with this.”
Already growing accustomed to the spotlight and building confidence after his fourth-round French Open run, Goffin sees the value in a fresh start at Wimbledon.
“I just use the French Open to give me a lot of confidence, but that's all,” said the Belgian, who next takes on American Jessie Levine. “It's behind me, and it's a new tournament here. “I'm in [the] second round, and I'm feeling good."