Finally. After a few days of mesmerizing group tennis play, we are back on familiar ground with regards to tennis – the knock out stage. Roger Federer and Jack Sock are the players who survived group Boris Becker, while Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin – surprise surprise – were the qualifiers from group Pete Sampras. Roger Federer will square off against David Goffin in the semi-finals, while Grigor Dimitrov clashes with a familiar foe in Jack Sock.
Roger Federer vs David Goffin (H2H 6 – 0, Federer)
We’ll start with the historical precedent in this match – the head to head between these two players. Roger Federer and David Goffin have faced each other six times. Federer has won all six encounters. In fact, since their very first match in Roland Garros, all the way back in 2012, Federer has only lost two sets to Goffin. The reason for this is straightforward. David Goffin lacks the physicality, power or weapons to hurt Federer. In this matchup, it is Federer who has all the firepower and we know he won’t hesitate to use it. Goffin is a great defender but not up there with the likes of Nadal, Djokovic or Murray – and Federer has gotten past the defenses of all three. Goffin’s defense just doesn’t hold up to the varied onslaught of the Federer game.
Worse still, David Goffin suffers from the same problem Grigor Dimitrov has when he faces Federer. People easily forget that Goffin grew up idolizing Roger Federer. It is a bit more difficult to see, but there are aspects of Goffin’s game that draw directly from the Federer playbook such as his quick movement around the court, his ability to redirect the ball at will and his ability to take the ball very early. These are all Goffin’s strengths. The problem is Federer does all of these things, but much better. Goffin can’t outmaneuver Federer or take away time from him. Bottom line, he can’t outplay him. That doesn’t leave the diminutive Belgian with a lot of options.
Finally, Goffin is facing a Federer that has been in full flight for most of 2017. Though the Swiss hasn’t been exactly at his storied best in this tournament, he has shown his underrated ability to tough out matches. I just don’t see Goffin winning this unless he capitalizes on a very bad day from the legend.
Grigor Dimitrov vs Jack Sock (H2H 3 – 1, Sock)
Who is the revelation of the tournament? Grigor Dimitrov or Jack Sock? Whichever player you pick, they probably deserve it. Most people weren’t expecting to see Jack Sock at the world tour finals, talk less of qualifying from the group stage behind Federer. On the other hand, while a few people might have touted Dimitrov to make the semis, I doubt anyone thought he’d do so with a clean sweep of the group stage matches. In his last two matches, Dimitrov allowed just four games. If that isn’t dominant, I don’t know what is.
While Dimitrov has been on fire lately, he goes into this match facing an inspired player who has won three out of the four matches they’ve contested – Sock also won their last battle in Indian Wells. The H2H will probably play up at the crucial stages of their encounter. Jack Sock knows exactly what he has to do to defeat Grigor Dimitrov, and Dimitrov knows he’s gotta figure out a way to turn this matchup in his favor. This could be the star match of the semifinals. Both these guys are playing the best tennis of their lives and they both know each other’s games so well. However, I give the slight edge to Dimitrov.