Rotterdam 2017: Lucky 13 for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, unlucky sixth for David Goffin
Jo Wilfried-Tsonga comes from a set down to beat David Goffin at the Rotterdam Open and win his first ATP title since 2015
The two hopefuls who came to court at Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena to determine who would lift this year’s ABN AMRO trophy had much more in common than their popularity with the Dutch fans.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a 12-time title winner, former Grand Slam finalist, former finalist in Rotterdam, and winner of two Masters titles, had put together a 12-3 winning record so far this season.
Belgian David Goffin, who had been taken to the hearts of the locals—after all, he was born only 20km from the Dutch border and just a two-hour drive from Rotterdam—was into his second final in the space of a week. Just like Tsonga, he had made a quarter-final run at the Australian Open, and he too arrived in the final on a 12-3 tally.
Neither man had secured a victory in some time. Tsonga’s last was two years ago, in Metz. Goffin won Metz the year before, along with Kitzbuhel, but had been unable to convert any of his five subsequent finals to silverware.
Both had also made landmark wins in Rotterdam this week. The 31-year-old Tsonga had notched up his 400th match-win in the semis in a storming performances over old adversary Tomas Berdych.
Goffin not only won his first ever match in Rotterdam after losing his opener in all three previous visits, he went on to score his first victory over Grigor Dimitrov, who had beaten him in that title match last week in Sofia. In reaching the Rotterdam final, he secured an even bigger feather in his cap: entry into the top 10, the first Belgian man ever to do so.
And it looked in the early stages of this final as though Goffin’s light-as-a-feather tennis would get the better of the Frenchman’s all-court power. The smaller, younger, more slightly built Belgian had been finding angles and hitting the lines with laser-like precision all week, and his crisp returns of serve had Tsonga in trouble straight away. Goffin broke twice, and although Tsonga pulled one break back, the Belgian served out the first set, 6-4.
But the Frenchman’s big serve made more inroads in the second set—he would drop only five points in 25 on his own serve—and although Goffin lived with Tsonga though nine games, the Frenchman’s huge forehand punctured the Belgian defences at 4-5 to convert his fifth break point. The match was all square at 6-4.
Tsonga now played still more freely, and after defending a break point in the opening game of the third, he broke through the tough resistance of Goffin in the second, 2-0, and held to love for 3-0.
The damage was done: Goffin was unable to resist the ever-faster serving and penetrating forehands from Tsonga, and would win just one game in the set. After almost two hours, victory was the Frenchman’s 6-1.
With his 13th match-win of 2017, then, Tsonga secured his 13th title, and will rise three places in the rankings to No11—one place behind Goffin.
He said: “I’m really happy. This title comes at the right moment. The last couple of months I put in a lot of effort to come back to this level. It’s a huge reward for me and it gives me new expectations for the rest of the year… I will try to be better and better.”
For Goffin, though, it was another bitter-sweet Sunday as runner-up, his sixth without a victory, his third at the ATP500 level.
He was, as ever, generous both to his opponent and to the Rotterdam crowds.
“It was a great week in the end. There was a lot of emotion and I won a lot of matches. I was a bit tired today. I started the final really well, but in the end Jo played better than me, especially in the third set.
“Of course I’m disappointed, but I played some good tennis and will be in the top 10 on Monday.”
Just hours after his victory in Rotterdam, Tsonga tweeted a photo of himself jetting back to France, where he is second seed in Marseille. He has a couple of days’ grace, though, with a bye into the second round, but finds himself in a half packed by youthful talent, including wild card Denis Shapovalov, Karen Khachanov and a possible semi against either Nick Kyrgios or Alexander Zverev.
Goffin next heads to the hotter outdoor climes of Acapulco, another ATP500, which gets under way on 27 February.