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Goffin Edges Into Second Tokyo Final

David Goffin reached his second successive final at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2017 on Saturday, a result which moved the Belgian into the final automatic qualification spot for next month’s Nitto ATP Finals.

Goffin moved up one spot past American Sam Querrey (2,435) to No. 10 in the Emirates ATP Race To London — with 2,540 points — for a spot at the season finale, to be held at The O2 in London from 12-19 November. Goffin started the week at No. 13 in the year-to-date standings.

Fourth seed Goffin improved to 48-18 on the season with a 7-6(3), 7-6(6) victory over fellow baseliner, eighth-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman, in two hours and three minutes for a place in his fourth ATP World Tour final of the year. Goffin is on an eight-match winning streak, which includes his third trophy last week at the Shenzhen Open (d. Dolgopolov).

“Today was a tough match, I knew it would be a match with a lot of rallies,” said Goffin. “I knew that Diego would be very solid from the baseline, so I needed to be solid and aggressive too, sometimes finishing at the net. I think I served well throughout the match, maybe not towards the end, but I’m happy to win in two sets. It was a great match, when we both played our best tennis.”

He will face France's Adrian Mannarino, who beat top-seeded Croatian Marin Cilic, in the Tokyo final on Sunday. Last year, Goffin lost to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in the championship match.

“Mannarino is improving this year, he has won a lot of matches and has a lot of confidence," said Goffin. "He is using his lefty serve effectively, which can be tricky to return. He’s playing well, so it will be tough.”

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At the end of a high-quality first set won by Goffin, dominated by tactical guile and fine groundstroke winners, Schwartzman was left to rue snatching at a forehand destined for down the line and into space at 4-4, with his opponent serving at 0/30. Ultimately, three straight forehand errors by Schwartzman in the tie-break handed Goffin the set.

Goffin broke Schwartzman’s serve in the fifth game of the second set, then recovered from 15/40 in the next game to seize control of the pair’s fourth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting. Schwartzman, a 5’6” in height and the possessor of a blistering forehand, continued to battle and was rewarded — in a run of three straight games — with a Goffin forehand error when the Belgian served for the match at 5-4, 15/40.

Goffin took a 4/2 advantage in the tie-break, but soon found himself at 4/5. He dug deep to respond and lead 6/5, but Schwartzman saved the match point and subsequently double-faulted. The match ended when Schwartzman hit a backhand long of the baseline. Goffin has an 8-1 match record at the ATP World Tour 500 tournament.

Schwartzman, 25, was appearing in his second ATP World Tour semi-final of the year. He reached the same stage at Istanbul in May (l. to Cilic) and has a 32-24 match record in 2017.