Goffin, Istomin re-enter the winner's circle in China

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David Goffin won his first title in three years at the Shenzhen Open. (AP)

Denis Istomin and David Goffin ended their respective title droughts in dramatically different ways in China.

Istomin, who made waves at the beginning of the year when he upset Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, captured the Chengdu Open title when his opponent, Marcos Baghdatis, retired at 3-2 down.

Goffin, who reached the top 10 for the first time this year, won the Shenzhen Open in three sets over Alexandr Dolgopolov.

For both champions, the taste of victory had been a long time coming.

In 2015, Istomin defeated Sam Querrey in straight sets in the finals of the Nottingham tournament on grass. That was already a few years past his career-high ranking of 33 in 2012, which was built upon some consistent results, including becoming the first player from Uzbekistan to make the fourth round of a Grand Slam, a feat he achieved at Wimbledon that year.

After his Nottingham title, Istomin struggled until re-emerging on the world stage by his shocking upset of six-time Australian Open champion Djokovic this year in Melbourne.

In Chengdu, Istomin won his first two matches in straight sets, then went the distance in his next two to get to the final. Baghdatis battled through three-setters all week, then in the final, he fell victim to back spasms and had to retire, giving Istomin the title.

While Istomin has had his fair share of ups and downs, Goffin, who won the title in Shenzhen, has been a model of consistency the past three seasons. However, since going 2-0 in his first career finals in 2014, the Belgian had been unable to finish a tournament as the last man standing.

From October 2014 to February of this year, he lost six straight finals—on hard, clay and grass courts. Over that period, though, he reached the fourth round or better at all of the Grand Slams at least once, and has played solidly at the Masters 1000 level, including a win over Djokovic at the Monte Carlo Masters this year to make the semifinals.

He had established himself as a legitimate dark-horse at the French Open, but a freak injury derailed his chances and kept him out of the game for a stretch.

Goffin reached the fourth round at the US Open and afterward helped Belgium advance to the Davis Cup final for the second time in three years.

Back in tournament play in Shenzhen as the number-two seed, Goffin breezed through his first two matches in straight sets. Surprisingly, he was pushed to the brink in the semifinals by Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland in the semis, before reaching his third final of the year.

Going into the match, Goffin had an 0-2 head-to-head record against Dolgopolov. However, the two hadn’t played since 2013—a different time in both of their careers. Goffin took the first set 6-4, then found himself in a 1-5 hole in the second. He rallied to take the set to a tiebreak, but Dolgopolov managed to hold on. They each held serve through the first seven games until Goffin broke for a 5-3 lead and then served out the match.

While Goffin and Istomin won their titles under different circumstances, they can both find common ground in the relief of ending their respective droughts.

 

 

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