By John Delong
David Goffin is trending upward these days, and it showed Saturday on opening day of the third annual Winston-Salem Open.
Goffin, the No. 1 seed in qualifying, won both of his qualifying matches and can secure a spot in the 48-player Main Draw with one more win on Sunday.
On a day when rain forced all matches to the Wake Forest Tennis Complex’s indoor courts, Goffin beat Filip Polasek 6-1, 6-3 in the first round and then came back later in the day to beat Takanyi Garanganga 6-2, 6-1.
"I’m playing good for the moment on American hardcourts," Goffin said. "I’m playing good and feel good here and playing with a lot of confidence. So hopefully I’m going to continue to play at my best level and get into the Main Draw."
Goffin is currently ranked No. 80, but when the new ATP World Tour rankings come out on Monday he is expected to move up at least another dozen spots after securing valuable points in Cincinnati. He advanced through qualifying and won two Main Draw matches there, beating Mackenzie McDonald and Vacek Pospisil before losing to Novak Djokovic in the third round.
The past week has provided another bit of good news for the 22-year-old Belgian, who rose to as high as No. 42 last October after a trip to the fourth round at Roland Garros and a trip to the third round at Wimbledon in 2012.
When Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew from this year’s US Open earlier this week, it opened up a spot for Goffin in the Main Draw, and eliminated the necessity to go through qualifying. He had not entered the Winston-Salem Open originally because he expected that he would have to be in New York for Open qualifying instead.
"Normally I would be in qualies in the US Open, but I got in so I am happy to be here, even if it’s in qualies," Goffin said. "Of course, it’s a lot of matches and physically it’s not easy, but I have some victories so I’m happy."
His ranking has tumbled in the past year largely because of bad luck in the Grand Slams. He lost in the first round to Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open, lost to Djokovic in the first round at Roland Garros, and then drew Tsonga and lost in the first round at Wimbledon.
"I was Top 50 and then I had tough draws at the French Open and Wimbledon, so I lost a lot of points," he said. "But my level was still there. So now I’m back in the Top 70 so that means my level is there again."
Goffin, of course, has good memories of the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
He advanced to the quarterfinals last year, beating Nicolas Mahut, Victor Troicki and Lukasz Kubot – in a third-set tiebreak – before losing to eventual champion John Isner. He lost a tight tiebreak to Isner in the first set, then Isner’s power eventually took its toll on the 5-11, 150-pounder in the second set.
"The match against Isner in the quarters, it was a great match on Center Court and it was a great experience for me to play against John," Goffin said. "So I have good memories here, and I am happy to be back."
Goffin will face Michal Mertinak in Sunday’s third round. Other third-round matchups include Dennis Kudla against Frederik Nielsen, Thiemo DeBakker against Sanam Singh, and Joao Sousa against Steve Johnson. The four winners will advance to the Main Draw.
Merinak beat Saketh Myneni 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round; Kudla beat Henrique Cunha 6-3, 6-1; Nielsen beat James Duckworth 7-5, 6-2; DeBakker beat Dominic Inglot 3-6, 6-3, 6-0; Singh beat Jesse Witten 6-2, 6-4; Sousa beat Eric Quigley 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-1; and Johnson beat Michael Shabaz 6-4, 6-1.
In the first round, Kudla beat Andrew Carter 6-1, 6-1; Cunha beat Frantisek Cermak 6-3, 7-6 (4); Duckworth beat Michael Venus 7-6 (6), 6-7 (3), 7-5; Witten beat Strong Kirchheimer 6-4; 6-4; Singh beat Sekou Bangoura 7-5, 6-2; DeBakker beat John Peers 6-3, 6-3; Sousa beat Wake Forest’s Pedro Dumont 6-3, 6-0; Dominic Inglot beat Treat Huey 4-6, 6-4, 6-3; Quigley beat Chris Guccione 6-3, 6-4; Myneni beat Wake Forest’s Adam Lee 4-6, 6-3, 6-1; Mertinak beat Andre Begemann 6-4, 6-3; Johnson beat Tyler Hochwalt 7-5, 6-3; Shabaz beat Wake Forest’s Aws Laaribi 6-1, 6-3; and Garanganga beat Greg Ouellette 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.