French Open: Nadal ruthless, Goffin retires, Thiem rolls on
Rafael Nadal was ruthless in his third round match encounter Nikoloz Balashvilli in a match that lasted but one hour and 30 minutes. In a sad ending, 10th seeded David Goffin was forced to retire after a bad fall in his match against Horacio Zeballos of Argentina. The surprise winner will face Dominic Thiem, who prevailed over America’s Steve Johnson in a battle of hard serves.
If a song were to be playing in the head of the Georgia’s Balashvilli, it would have been “Mercy, Mercy, Rafa.” The matador on a mission raced through the first set without losing a game; a rarity at this level of the game. The second set offered a semblance of battle though the dominance was sustained. Nadal won the first game on his serve and proceeded to break Nikoloz two more times to lead 5-0. It was ever suicidal to offer Nadal a second serve or allow him reach deuce. He converted all deuce points, and this denied Balashvilli many games. In the first game of the third set, Nikoloz saved a break point at 30-40, got the first advantage that Nadal cancelled with a forehand winner.
Dominic Thiem won the first set 6-1. In the second set, both players served hard and accurately, leading to six games apiece. In the tiebreak, the Austrian took two of his opponent’s service points for a commanding 5 to 2 lead. The American won his next two service points to reduce the tally. Thiem delivered a bomber of a serve to reach set point and followed with another 201km/H ripper that elicited a weak return that he dispatched with a forehand winner that gave him the tiebreak seven points to four and the set 7/6.
In the third set, the fourth seed served first and held easily. In the second game, two unforced forehand errors by Johnson had him down 0 to 30 but he leveled and had game point at 40 to 30. He was deuced and staved off three break points before clinching the game on his first advantage point. Both players delivered serves averaging 195Km/H and held service games easily. Any weak second serve was a certain give-away to the receiver. It was in the sixth game that Thiem broke Johnson’s serve and consolidated for a 5-2 lead. Serving for the match at 5-3, Thiem first delivery forced a forehand error from his opponent.
Next, successive forehand and backhand winners led to 40 to 15 match point that he clinched with a backhand volley winner.
Dominic Thiem will take on Horacio Zeballos, who benefitted from the retirement by David Goffin, after the 10th seeded Belgian ace twisted his right ankle when serving for the first set in their third round encounter. Davis was leading 5 to 4 and faced a break point at 30 to 40. He was pushed deep by Horacio and ran wide to his left to hit a high lobe at full stretch. He could not control his slide and fell on his back.
Ironically, Zeballos missed the overhead smash while Goffin rolled over clutching his right ankle. He was helped to get up by a medical trainer but limped off the court.
David Goffin is one of the three “heirs apparent” in men’s tennis. He was a semifinalist in Monte Carlo and reached the quarterfinals in Madrid. Thiem defeated Nadal in Rome after having lost to the Maestro in the Finals of Barcelona and Madrid.