By John Delong, special to EmiratesUSOpen.com
At age 21, David Goffin has already proven that he can perform on the ATP World Tour’s grandest stages.
He reached the fourth round at Roland Garros earlier this year and then backed that success up by reaching the third round at Wimbledon.
It all bodes well for the boyish-looking rising star from Belgium as he goes into the Main Draw at next week’s US Open for the first time in his career.
Goffin lost to defending champion and World No. 10 John Isner 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Winston-Salem Open on Thursday night, but with three impressive victories here he takes a world of confidence into the final Grand Slam of the year.
"It’s a good tournament for me here, quarterfinal, four matches," Goffin said. "It’s a good preparation for the US Open. It’s my first time in the Main Draw so I will try to do my best to go as far as possible. Of course I have played well in Grand Slams this year, so I’m going there with a lot of confidence."
Goffin had never reached the quarterfinals of an ATP World Tour event before coming here, so he’s sure to continue to rise from his current career-best No. 58 in next week’s rankings.
He had three very good wins at Winston-Salem, beating Nicolas Mahut in the first round, world No. 32 Viktor Troicki in the second round, and then enduring a nail-biter to beat Lukasz Kubot 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (5) in the third round. Against Kubot, he had to wait through two extended rain delays and then reach deep after initially squandering two mini-breaks in the tiebreaker.
Fellow countryman and friend Steve Darcis, who knocked off Andy Roddick here before losing to second-seeded Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals, said that Goffin has moxie already.
"David, he thinks he can beat everybody, so he’s very confident," Darcis said. "And this is very good, because it’s true. With his game he can beat anybody. He’s very solid from the baseline, he’s not missing much, he’s playing fast, he’s also very fast on the legs, and a very good return. I think it’s his best weapon. He has been playing good."
Goffin’s rise up the rankings has not been unexpected by any means. He’s long been touted as an up-and-comer to keep an eye on, after reaching as high as No. 9 in the ITF rankings in 2008. He turned pro in 2009 and won three Futures events as a 19-year-old, then won two more Futures tournaments last year.
He started the year at No. 174. He won a Challenger event in Guadaloupe in March, and then got his big break at Roland Garros in May. He lost in the third round of qualifying, but was granted a spot in the Main Draw as a Lucky Loser when Gael Monfils withdrew with a knee injury.
Three wins later, he found himself against his idol, Roger Federer. It was a dream-come-true for him to even face Federer, and it got even better when he won the first set 7-5, before eventually falling in four sets.
Federer had high praise for Goffin after the match, saying that the youngster had the potential to become "a great champion."
"Roland Garros was amazing for me," Goffin said. "Of course I was happy after that. I was playing good there, it was a great moment. He said a lot of positive things about me. Of course after Roland Garros I wanted to confirm that it was not the only one, a one shot. So I was happy after Wimbledon because I was able to confirm."
As one would expect, Goffin credits match experience as the main reason for his rise up the rankings.
"Last year I played like I was young," he said. "I was playing good, but not doing it all tournament. Sometimes one match or two, but then one was not so good. So now mentally I’m better. I have more experience in big tournaments and now I’m here with a lot of confidence for the rest of the year."
Ultimately, he has his eyes on the top 10, but for now he is content to continue to make progress.
"It’s difficult to say where I can go, but this week I’m 58 and I have no points to defend at the end of the year, so I will look at them as bonus tournaments the rest of the year, and we’ll see after 2012 what ranking I will be."