David Goffin, notoriously shy off court, will be tasked with flying the flag for Belgium in the inaugural Antwerp ATP European Open which begins later this month. Whilst the 25-year-old is the only Belgian ranked in the top 100, he hasn’t won a singles title since the Moselle Open in 2014. Goffin will undoubtedly receive the backing of a partisan Lotto Arena crowd. This, however, could be more likely to hinder than help; cast your mind back to the Davis Cup final nearly a year ago when it took two sets for a completely in-his-shell Goffin to settle down vs our own Kyle Edmund.
His trophy cabinet is hardly bulging with just 2 title wins to date, but in 2016 Goffin has shown signs that he’s creeping ever-closer to adding to his collection. The Belgian has reached 3 tournament semi finals, 5 quarters, and perhaps most notably, came staggeringly close to a first-ever Wimbledon quarter-final appearance in June before succumbing to eventual finalist Milos Raonic in the last 16.
Although he hasn’t enjoyed such a fruitful season so far, Murray convincingly put him away in QF in the Shanghai masters, he is improving.
David Ferrer, stands out amongst the roster as the man Goffin will need to beat if he is to secure his first title of the year. Ferrer currently has 26 titles under his belt whereas the rest of the field toil with no more than 10, and at 34 years of age, the Spaniard’s experience and on-court nous make him a notoriously difficult opponent even for the game’s elite.
Goffin may have youth on his side, but if it came to fruition, Ferrer would undoubtedly have the psychological edge over his opponent should the two cross paths in Antwerp. The pair have met twice to date – at the Paris and Rome Masters in 2014 and 2015 respectively – with Ferrer reigning victorious, in somewhat convincing fashion, on both occasions.
ATP tour veterans Richard Gasquet, Alexandr Dolgopolov and in particular, Pablo Cuevas, will be looking to make an impact in Belgium, too. The latter has tended to fare better in his native South America, but the 30-year-old has this year reached the AEGON Nottingham Open and ATP Hamburg finals, emphasising the improvements he’s making whilst playing on the continent.
With 2016 being its inception year though, the Antwerp European Open could spring a surprise or two – and David Goffin will be desperate to christen the event with a win in front of his countrymen and women.