Happy memories for Goffin in Paris


Originally published on 01/06/17

In 2012, the Belgian, then 21, was handed a lucky loser’s place in the main draw at the French Open after falling in the last round of qualifying – and with that, his Grand Slam debut.

Goffin made the most of his stroke of fortune – bestowed upon him following Gael Monfils’ late withdrawal – and surged to the fourth round, beating No.23 seed Radek Stepanek, Frenchman Arnaud Clement in his last Roland Garros appearance, and Poland’s Lukasz Kubot to reach the last 16 – the first lucky loser to do so at a major since compatriot Dick Norman’s run at Wimbledon in 1995.

“I’ve played a lot of matches here in the French Open,” said Goffin. “I played well most of the time, great level. Of course, in 2012 was the first time, the first Grand Slam I played. And, yeah, the first main draw, and I won three matches because I was lucky loser and, of course, it was great memories.”

Perhaps the greatest so far came in the fourth round five years ago, where Goffin faced Roger Federer. The Belgian took the first set against the 18-time Grand Slam champion before Federer turned the match around to win in four sets.

“Of course, I remember everything,” Goffin said of his 2012 run. “I remember every match before. I remember the match of Federer and it was, yeah, a great memory. I took the first set and was close to lead two sets to love. And, yeah, it was not easy after, but, of course, it gave me a lot of confidence.”

Now 26, Goffin comes into the French Open having posted his best Grand Slam run to date in Paris a year ago when he reached the quarter-finals, a run he matched at this year’s Australian Open. Seeded No.10 for the first time at a major, he became the first Belgian man to reach the ATP top 10 in February and got his clay court season off to the perfect start with wins over Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo, before losing to Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.

The same sequence may await Goffin in Paris, but first he must beat Horacio Zeballos in the third round. “He’s a lefty who has performed well on clay,” said the Belgian. “He has a good one-handed backhand that is very clean and very nice. I will have to make him move around because, when he hits his forehand and backhand, he’s very dangerous.”