In a battle between former No. 7s, David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday, 6-3, 6-4, to reach the first ATP Masters 1000 final of his career in Cincinnati.
It was fifth time lucky for Goffin, who had been 0-4 in Masters 1000 semifinals going into this one.
The Belgian was dialed in from start to finish this time, though, getting the first break of the match in the fourth game to go up 3-1 and then holding serve until he had the first set in his pocket. He ripped a forehand winner up the line to get to set point, then watched a Gasquet backhand sail long to clinch it.
The second set was slightly trickier. Gasquet snuck out an early break for a 2-0 lead but Goffin caught fire one last time from there, reeling off six of the next eight games to win in straight sets. The Belgian closed it out after just an hour and 15 minutes on court.
“It’s a great moment for me,” Goffin said. “This is a tournament I like and I’ve really played my best tennis here in the past years, so I’m really happy to reach my first final of a Masters 1000 here.”
Goffin talked about not knowing what to expect given he’d received a walkover in the quarterfinals on Friday. His scheduled opponent, Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, was forced to withdraw due to illness.
“I was completely lost yesterday,” he said. “I didn’t know if I should practice again, rest, get treatment or physio. I didn’t know. But I ended up going on court for practice then just did the normal routines.
“But I only had a small hit yesterday, so it was almost a day off, and I felt really fresh today. I knew Richard was tired because of his match yesterday. So I was a bit lucky. But I played some good tennis. I managed my emotions well, too, because it was not easy to serve for the match.”
Goffin finished the match with almost twice as many winners as unforced errors, 27 to 14; he actually had almost three times as many winners as unforced errors off the forehand side alone, 14 to 5. Gasquet, meanwhile, finished the match with 15 winners to 23 unforced errors.
The No. 16 seed is now through to the second-biggest final of his career, having reached the title match of the season-ending ATP Finals in 2017, where he finished runner-up to Grigor Dimitrov in a tight three-setter. He’s a win away from his biggest title, having triumphed at the 500-level title in Tokyo three years ago.
His four previous Masters 1000 semifinals came at Indian Wells in 2016, where he fell to Milos Raonic, Miami in 2016, where he fell to Novak Djokovic, Monte Carlo in 2017, falling to Rafael Nadal, and Cincinnati last year, where he was forced to retire against Roger Federer with a shoulder injury.
By reaching the final, Goffin is projected to rise from No. 19 to No. 15 on Monday’s rankings, securing a Top 16 seed for the US Open. He could go as high as No. 12 should he win the title. Gasquet is projected to jump from No. 56 up to No. 34 after his run to the semifinals.