The Pick: Kei Nishikori vs. David Goffin, Dubai second round

The Pick: Kei Nishikori vs. David Goffin, Dubai second round

Expect a master class in footwork and point construction, as two of the game's most skilled players face off for the fourth time.

For the first time since 2015, two of the ATP's most skilled players, Kei Nishikori and David Goffin, will face off in a fantastic second-round clash from Dubai. 

After missing most of 2020 due to a shoulder injury, Nishikori is slowly but surely building momentum, as showcased in his Rotterdam quarterfinal run with wins over Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur. The world No. 41 dispatched Reilly Opelka 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, on Monday, and will look to earn his fourth consecutive victory over the Belgian. 

Nishikori defeated Goffin three times in 2015, but he would be the first to tell you his form is a far cry from that 54-win, three-title season. Nishikori and Goffin are two of the quickest, most fundamentally sound ball-strikers you will see on court but historically, the major separator has been Nishikori’s firepower. Though he stands an inch shorter, Nishikori can finish points in ways Goffin either can’t, or prefers not to. 

This match will likely be a master class in point construction and footwork, as both rely on their crisp movement and timing to do the bulk of their damage. I counted at least 12 adjustment steps in this flawless display of footwork against Roger Federer in Shanghai. 

This time around, Goffin should have a slight advantage simply because he is more match-tested, but it’s unwise to count out Nishikori, especially in the early stages of a tournament. Goffin should be the more confident player on the heels of his Montpellier title, and played great tennis in Doha despite his loss to Taylor Fritz. 

Goffin has summoned some brilliant tennis lately, and would love to earn his first win over Nishikori in this somewhat vulnerable state. Expect plenty of breaks in this match between two phenomenal returners, but if Goffin can’t beat Nishikori on Tuesday, one has to wonder if he will ever be able to score a win against his good friend. 

The Pick: David Goffin