Sunday night, Nov. 19, rain is pouring down in Haskovo, Bulgaria. The streets are empty and quiet. More than 2000 kilometres away, in Rocourt, Belgium, the weather is similar. It feels as if the first touch of Winter replaced the Autumn hues of the falling leaves. Tension is in the air. Another 400 kilometres northwest two athletes are preparing for the greatest match of their careers. The crowd is restless and so are they. The roar of 20 000 people welcomes Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin to the tennis court in the famous O2 arena in London in the final of one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments: Nitto ATP World Tour Finals.
For Dimitrov and Goffin the year started differently. The Bulgarian tennis player was rank 17 back in January, while the Belgian was rank 11. With the extraordinary performance by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer throughout the year, along with the young talents in the face of Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, few people expected the final of the competition to be between those two players. Dimitrov and Goffin were in the Pete Sampras group and faced each other during the group stage. The Bulgarian won decisively; he claimed the first set without allowing Goffin to take a single game.
David Goffin was born in Rocourt, Belgium. He started playing tennis when he was six. In his entire career he had won four titles, two of which during the 2017 campaign. Goffin was triumphant in Tokyo and Shenzhen. His highest rank prior to the ATP Finals was number eight.
Grigor Dimitrov was born in Haskovo, Bulgaria. He started playing tennis at the age of three. Overall, he has eight titles, four of them he won in 2017. Dimitrov was victorious in Brisbane, Sofia, and the Masters tournament in Cincinnati prior to the ATP Finals. His highest ranking position was number six.
Both tennis players are at the age of twenty six. Goffin has been maintaining a steadfast gameplay throughout the last year and a half. This is not the case with Dimitrov. Goffin never left top fifteen, while Dimitrov was rank forty sixteen months ago. One of the most unexpected twists during the tournament was Goffin’s performance versus Nadal in the group stage and Federer in the semi-finals. He defeated the two top seeds in the world, according to the current ATP Rankings.
Back in February, Goffin and Dimitrov faced each other in another final at the Sofia Open tournament, part of the ATP World Tour 250 series. The Bulgarian won his tournament debut in his country. Seven months later the two tennis players competed for the Nitto ATP Finals title. This is the seventeenth time singles finalists have met twice in the same year-end championship. It is also the first time in history when first-time qualifiers had played for the title.
The Bulgarian won the final of the Nitto ATP Finals in a contested toe-to-toe match. He recorded his fifth consecutive win at the Finals, beating David Goffen 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to claim his biggest professional success in his tournament debut. The last player to be a first-year qualifier and become a champion was Alex Corretja back in 1998 when he defeated Carlos Moya.
Goffin and Dimitrov had the most successful week in their professional careers. Both registered highest ranking positions after the tournament. Goffin defeated two tennis legends along the way and Dimitrov finished the best season of his life with the best possible title.
The 2017 ATP Finals proved out to be one of the most thrilling tennis tournaments this year. Fans all around the world witnessed epic battles, hegemons dethroned, an unexpected clash for the title, and the crowning of a new champion. The dramatic changes in the world rankings mean that the next season will be full of new and memorable adventures. The tennis court demands constant focus and display of players’ best performances. In return it offers greatness and the opportunity for the champions’ names to echo throughout history.
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