Few predicted a Western & Southern Open final between Russian Daniil Medvedev and Belgian David Goffin. But that matters little to the players, who each has a tremendous opportunity on Sunday to lift their first ATP Masters 1000 trophy in Cincinnati.
Entering the semi-finals, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic appeared en route to claiming his 34th title at this level. But Medvedev upset the Serbian for the second time this year to set a rematch of a five-set thriller he lost against Goffin at Wimbledon last month.
“I try to take every match, no matter who I'm playing, the same,” Medvedev said. “I don't feel any extra pressure or [take] any extra confidence that I'm playing Goffin and not, for example, Rafa. But probably in percentage changes, yes, I have a better chance to win against David than against Rafa, but it does not mean that I cannot lose.”
This time a week ago, the Russian was preparing for his first Masters 1000 final at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal. Medvedev mustered only three games against Rafael Nadal, who triumphed in 70 minutes.
But instead of getting deflated this week, Medvedev has shown no drop-off at all. Instead, he is into his third ATP Tour final in as many weeks (Washington, Montreal, Cincinnati), becoming the first player to accomplish the feat since Alexander Zverev last year (Munich, Madrid, Rome).
“I think I will need to play aggressively, especially remembering my match in Wimbledon against David. I felt that I couldn't keep up with his consistency when he's in great shape,” Medvedev said. “At one moment I stepped up my game kind of like today with aggression and I almost won the match, though I lost it, and I think I'm going to have to be aggressive tomorrow.”
Medvedev speaks of their three-hour, 31-minute battle at SW19 just last month. The 23-year-old was up a break at 4-1 in the decider. But the former World No. 7 stormed back for the victory, eventually reaching the quarter-finals.
“It was an amazing feeling. But I felt that I was a little bit, I think, the better player during the whole match,” Goffin said at the time. “If you see all the rallies and how I felt during the match, I was feeling good and during the rallies I was a little bit more aggressive. But you never know with a player like Daniil, who sometimes is aggressive in just a few points, and then he serves, and then a few aces [and it] could be 4-1 like in the fifth. But I felt like I had the game and the shots to come back. Physically I was feeling great, as well. So I had the energy to fight, to come back.”
It will be interesting to see how big Medvedev goes on his second serves against Goffin. That proved a deciding factor against Djokovic, and the Russian said he did the same thing against the Belgian at Wimbledon, too.
Earlier in the year, at the Australian Open, Medvedev defeated Goffin in straight sets. So entering Sunday, their FedEx ATP Head2Head series is knotted at 1-1. Medvedev has shown tremendous form on hard courts in 2019, with his Djokovic win marking his 30th on the surface this year, which is 10 more than anyone else on the ATP Tour.
Goffin has shown plenty of prowess on hard courts, too, earning the best result of his career at The O2 in London two years ago, when he advanced to the championship match of the Nitto ATP Finals. The 28-year-old is the first Belgian to reach a Masters 1000 final, and he can jump into eighth place in the ATP Race To London if he wins his first crown since 2017 Tokyo and fifth ATP Tour title overall.
“I'm just focussed on what I have to do step by step. I’ll try to do my best. I try to win every match, and then we see at the end,” Goffin said. “To reach the first Masters 1000 [final] for a Belgian, of course for such a small country it's really nice.”