Most players would cherish the individual honours that David Goffin amassed in 2017.
In February, the skillful Belgian became the first man from his nation to achieve a top-10 ranking. By November, he’d defeated Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer en route to the Championship match at the ATP Tour Finals, consolidating that upper-echelon position to finish the year at a career-high world No.7.
But it’s while representing his nation that Goffin has thrived the most. Not only was the fiercely-patriotic 27-year-old unbeaten in six singles rubbers contested in 2017, but he’s 14-1 in the competition for the past three years.
In that time, Goffin has twice led the small European nation to the Davis Cup final, Goffin’s only singles loss occurring against world No.2 Andy Murray as Great Britain claimed a long-awaited title in 2015.
In 2017, Goffin claimed straight-sets wins over Italians Paolo Lorenzi an Andreas Seppi in the quarterfinals and sealed Belgium’s come-from-behind win over Australia in the semifinals staged in Brussels.
With Belgium trailing 1-2 on the third day Goffin stunned Nick Kyrgios – who was also unbeaten in 2017 singles rubbers until then – for the first time in three matches to turn his nation’s fortunes around.
“When he is playing at that level he is up there with the best in the world,” said the disappointed but gracious Kyrgios of his inspired opponent.
“He served unbelievably well today. He was moving great, hitting great. He was too good.”
Goffin was also “too good” for Lucas Pouille and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final against France, defeating each of those highly-credentialled opponents in straight sets.
While it was ultimately another finals loss for Belgium – Goffin recording the nation’s only wins – it also provided an important marker of a career-best season for the increasingly-influential star.
Other high points were a quarterfinal run at the Australian Open, and late-season titles in Tokyo and Shenzhen.
There was also a career-defining run at the prestigious ATP Finals in London, where he stunned Nadal in the opening round robin match before a semifinal win over Federer – his first over the Swiss star in seven matches.
After losing to Grigor Dimitrov in the final, Goffin noted the impressive progress he’d made.
“I proved to myself that I can do it. I was at the right place because sometimes you are for the first time in the Top 8, you don’t know how it’s going to go, if you’re going to play a good level,” he said.
“I proved to myself that I’m in the right place, and I deserve to be here in this tournament.”
Most impressive, perhaps, was his perseverance after suffering a serious accident mid-year. Goffin progressed easily to the third round at Roland Garros but competing against Horacio Zeballos, he tripped on a tarpaulin stored at the back of the court.
The subsequent ankle injury forced him to immediately withdraw from that match and miss the entire grass court season, including Wimbledon, the Belgian absent from the tour for close to two months.
There was no sign of any physical compromise as the light-footed Belgian – who at 68kg is the lightest man in the Mastercard Hopman Cup 2018 field – hit career-best form in the final months of the year.
And the hugely talented Goffin will be determined to capitalise on that momentum in his nation’s seventh appearance at the Hopman Cup.
Partnered by debutante Elise Mertens, who has also thrived in Fed Cup, amassing a 3-0- singles record in her 2017 debut, you can’t help thinking that Goffin’s tendency to save his best for Belgium is a quality that could be rubbing off.
Belgium opens its Mastercard Hopman Cup 2018 campaign against Germany in the evening session on Monday 1 January.