Federer gives a bravura performance; Goffin gives up

© Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

NEW YORK — David Goffin was the other guy. The one who had no chance. The one who as much fell victim to his own inadequacies — “You don’t know why you are missing everything,” sighed Goffin — as to Roger Federer’s superiority.

Should we ever be surprised by what is possible from the great ones? Justin Verlander pitched another no-hitter Sunday, his third. In effect, Roger Federer in his fourth round match of the U.S. Open tennis championships also pitched a no-hitter Sunday.

Federer crushed Goffin, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0.

David Goffin of Belgium, who’s been as high as No. 7 in the world rankings, who was in the quarterfinals at this year’s Wimbledon and the 2016 French Open (and how many people can handle both the grass of the All-England and red clay at Roland Garros?) didn’t win a game the third set against Roger.

And only four games in the entire match, which lasted mere 1 hour 19 minutes. Sets in the Grand Slams run that long.

There were other matches this seventh day of America’s national champion, the last of the year’s four majors. Serena Williams beat Petra Martic of Croatia, 6-3, 6-4. And those fabulous American teens, Caty McNally, who won the first set from Serena the other night (if not the match) and Coco Gauff, beaten in the third round Saturday by defending Open champ Naomi Osaka, teamed to win in women’s doubles.

Serena, who will be 38 in three weeks, is trying to win a 24th Grand Slam, which would tie Margaret Court's women’s record. Federer, who was 38 three weeks ago, already holds the men’s mark, 20.

“I feel like we obviously have a love for the sport,” said Serena about herself and Federer. “I feel like a lot of players do, too. I can't really answer for Roger. I can just say that — I always said I would wake up one day and say, I'm done.”

That figuratively is what Goffin said Sunday in his match against Federer. No one doubted Roger was on a roll after losing the opening games in the first two matches of this Open.

Great athletes and great teams frequently play at a level hard to imagine — the Celtics of the ’60s, the 49ers of the ’80s, Tiger Woods of the 2000s — much less compete against. Yet you don’t concede. Unless you’re David Goffin.

At one point, after Federer scored on a forehand down the line, Goffin threw up a hand in frustration and, it seemed, in resignation. That’s it, people. Give me my check and book a flight.

Someone in the media group, out of nowhere, mentioned that Jimmy Connors, the feisty American of the 1970s, said during his long career he played only played five perfect matches.

How many, then, did Federer, with 102 tournament wins overall, believe he played? “More than five,” he said to laughter. “Just because.”

If Sunday’s match wasn’t one those, well, blame Goffin. He wasn’t going to offer any sort of challenge.

“Because against him,” Goffin said of Federer, “you don’t know why you miss easy shots. You are missing everything. All of a sudden he’s playing well. As soon as he gets ahead, he has a set. Then another set. Then it’s getting tough.

“For me, I knew two sets down you have to take the next three sets. It’s tough mentally when you’re not playing well. You miss everything and you don’t know why ... he doesn’t give you time to play.”

Federer keeps the pressure on, keeps attacking. As does Serena. As does Tiger. As have the Warriors the past few years. As have the Patriots of the past decade. They know what they can do. Know what they have done. And the person on the other side of the net or field or court also knows.

“You catch a good day,” said Federer, who’s in the Open quarterfinals for a 13th time, “the opponent doesn’t, then things happen very quickly.”

When one of the players is Roger Federer, the things that happen invariably are good. For him.