David Goffin, left, poses with the runner-up trophy next to Mubadala World Tennis Championship winner Rafael Nadal on December 31, 2016. Nadal won the final between the two 6-4, 7-6. Nezar Balout / AFP
David Goffin, left, poses with the runner-up trophy next to Mubadala World Tennis Championship winner Rafael Nadal on December 31, 2016. Nadal won the final between the two 6-4, 7-6. Nezar Balout / AFShow more

Runner-up finish to Rafa Nadal in Abu Dhabi suggests a solid season is ahead for David Goffin



ABU DHABI // Following his impressive performances at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) this week, David Goffin is relishing the start of the 2017 season.

Goffin, 26, was defeated in the MWTC final by Rafael Nadal yesterday, going down 6-4, 7-6 in a fiercely competitive match that belied the tournament's exhibition status.

Despite the defeat, it has been a successful first appearance at the Abu Dhabi tournament for Belgium’s world No 11, who became a new fan favourite for a series of entertaining matches that included victories over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and world No 1 Andy Murray.

“I can take a lot of positives from this tournament,” Goffin said.

“I won two matches and I played a close match against Rafa. I played a really good level for three days against the best players in the world and I’m feeling ready to start the next season.

“That’s the most important thing; I’m feeling ready physically and mentally and my tennis is there.”

The MWTC final was the first time Goffin had faced Nadal, whose victory ensured a fourth title in Abu Dhabi, in a match setting.

Having now played against the Spanish world No 9, Goffin believes he too is in good shape for 2017 following a two month absence at the end of last season to focus on rehabilitating a left wrist injury.

“Rafa puts so much intensity into every shot, you can feel how strong he is when he is in front of you,” Goffin said.

“It’s not easy to stay on the baseline and not to let him push you back, you have to run and take the ball early because he was playing so heavy. But I knew that before playing against him.

“Mentally he’s very strong, he saved a lot of break points and he plays every point like it’s the last one. He was very impressive and he looks very strong for the start of the season.”

Goffin will now hope to build on his encouraging form in Abu Dhabi when he opens his 2017 season next week in Doha at the Qatar Open.

Among his rivals in the Qatar capital will be both players he defeated in Abu Dhabi as well as world No 2 and defending champion Novak Djokovic.

While Doha will be his first competitive outing of the season, Goffin will again treat it as further preparation for the Australian Open later this month in Melbourne, the first grand slam of the year.

“It’s going to be a tough draw over there,” he added. “It’s always like that because everyone wants to play the first week of the season.

“We all want to play some matches before the Australian Open.

“That’s why I’m happy to have three matches here and hopefully have more matches in Doha. If I can beat Andy again that would be perfect!”​

jturner@thenational.ae

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