STUTTGART, April 24, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Julia Goerges came into her first-round match at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova having won four of her previous six meetings against the 34th-ranked Russian, including both previous matches on clay.
The 17th-ranked Goerges, a native of Bad Oldesloe, Germany, beat Pavlyuchenkova once before in Stuttgart in 2012. Since then, they’ve faced each other both indoors and outdoors, as well as on hard courts and grass. So, there’s a sense of familiarity between these two WTA tour veterans.
On Wednesday evening in Porsche Arena, it was that sense of familiarity that paid off for Pavlyuchenkova, even though the match ended abruptly with Goerge’s retirement in the third set after one hour and 46 minutes. Pavlyuchenkova advanced with 4-6, 6-2, 4-0 (retired) win.
— WTA (@WTA) 24. April 2019
“Three of my fingers are numb due to (an) irritated vertebrae,” Goerges said during her press conference afterward. “I’ve been struggling with it for 16 days.”
Goerges sought relief from a trainer early in the third set before ending it in the fifth game. Pavlyuchenkova hit 20 winners against just 15 unforced errors and converted four of eight break point opportunities. She saved six of seven break points on her serve.
Since winning the Stuttgart title in 2011, Goerges has won five other WTA tournaments – including twice at Auckland (2018, 2019). She reached a career high of No. 9 in August of 2018. Building upon back-to-back Top 20 seasons, in what seems like a second career for her– winning more than losing – there’s more to it for the 30-year-old Goerges.
After winning Auckland in January, Goerges fought a viral illness that kept her from playing her best tennis last month during the U.S. hard court swing in Indian Wells and Miami, which included a pair of second-round losses. Now that she’s back in her home country and playing on clay, a recent change of perspective seems to be helping turn her career around.
“I’m a different person now, I think much more open and open minded with what’s coming next. And at the end of the day, it’s just a game,” said Goerges during a recent WTA All Access Hour in Charleston, S.C., as quoted by the WTA website. “And if we understand how this game works then we can all live better with it.”
April has been a busy month for Goerges. She played on outdoor clay in Charleston, losing in the first round to Taylor Townsend of the U.S., 6-4, 7-6 (0). Then, Goerges represented Germany in Fed Cup play last weekend against Latvia, defeating Diana Marcinkevica, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, on an indoor hard court in Riga. This week, she returned to Germany to play on indoor clay in Stuttgart. Whether the change of surfaces contributed to Goerge’s ailment that forced her retirement against Pavlyuchenkova remains uncertain.
“I found a way to understand what a loss means, what a win means, and I think that’s much more worth it to just be so disappointed and unhappy if you lose,” said Goerges. “Because the next day, nobody cares about it – and the same when you win, too. If you learn a lot out of this situation then I think it makes you stronger and more mature.”
Around Porsche Arena
• Before Wednesday, the last of No. 61 Victoria Azarenka’s 10 career head-to-head meetings against No. 84 Vera Zvonareva took place all the way back in 2011, when they faced each other in the semifinals of the WTA Tour Championships in Istanbul. Azarenka won that meeting, 6-2, 6-3. Fast forward and Zvonareva brought a 6-4 career head-to-head lead into their first-round match in Stuttgart, including their only previous meeting on clay in 2008. This time, it was all Azarenka, who beat Zvonareva in a battle of moms, 7-5, 6-4, to advance against No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova. Asked how she would prepare for her second round match on Thursday, Azarenka, said, “Sleep.”
Arriving in Stuttgart following a 16,112 kilometer journey from Brisbane, Australia, where she represented her home country Belarus in a Fed Cup semifinal last weekend, the former World No. 1 can be forgiven if she was still feeling the effects of jet lag. In her post-match press conference, as quoted by WTATennis.com, she said: “I have no idea right now of the time or what’s happening. The flight from Australia was so long I felt like it was never going to end.
“It was a huge challenge for me today and I’m very happy with the way I handled it. I was not really expecting too much from myself today in terms of tennis, because I literally played (only) 30 minutes on clay, but I did expect to give my best effort.”
• No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals with an easy win over 192nd-ranked qualifier Greet Minnen of Belgium, 6-1, 6-4, in just 73 minutes, in her first clay-court match of the year. Kvitova had been idle since losing in the quarterfinal round to eventual winner Ashleigh Barty at the Miami Open last month.
Takes out Minnen, 6-1, 6-4! pic.twitter.com/niIM5laz1x
— WTA (@WTA) 24. April 2019
• No. 8 seed Anett Kontaveit raised the level of her game when she needed – she saved all six break points she faced during her 78-minute match – and it paid off in a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 21 Caroline Garcia, who on Sunday led France to a 3-2 Fed Cup semifinal win over Romania when she teamed with Kristina Mladenovic to win a decisive fifth rubber doubles match.
Porsche Arena has always been a welcoming venue for the World No. 14 Kontaveit, who as a qualifier in 2017 scored her first Top 10 victory over Garbiñe Muguruza. Last year, she reached her first Premier-level semifinal in Stuttgart.
Against Garcia, Kontaveit won 80 percent (32 of 40) of her first-serve points and broke her opponent three times in eight tries. The Estonian outpointed Garcia 65-57 to move into the second round against No. 34 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
• No. 24 Hsieh Su-Wei and No. 16 Wang Qiang have a long history going back to 2012. Coming into this week, Wang had owned a 3-2 advantage. In their sixth career head-to-head meeting, Hsieh came back from a set down to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, which advanced her to face World No. 1 and top seed Naomi Osaka on Thursday. It was the third time this season Hsieh has come back to win a match after losing the first set.
Looking ahead, all three of Hsieh’s previous matches against Osaka have gone three sets. Asked by the WTA Insider why this is, Hsieh said, “I think we love each other too much. We just want to see each other more on the court.”
• No. 20 Belinda Bencic struck 24 winners to 18 unforced errors and beat qualifier Mandy Minella, 6-2, 6-4. The win advanced Bencic to the second round against No. 6 seed Kiki Bertens.
A few moments with Andrea Petkovic
Germany’s Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber have faced each other 11 times in a rivalry that’s been dominated by Kerber’s eight victories They’ll face each other in second-round match Thursday evening. Interviewed by WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen after her win against qualifier Sara Sorribes Tormo on Tuesday, Petkovic suggested that her game “feeds right into Kerber’s strength and that Kerber forces her to play out of her comfort zone.”
According to Petkovic: “I play pretty flat and quick and she doesn’t like to generate tempo by herself, she just likes to take your tempo and redirect the ball really well and she does that tremendously well.
“I don’t have a huge serve, like for example Pliskova, or something who can make right away a big difference on the first shot.
“So, we get into exchanges and I feel like I’m dominating the game and then all of a sudden there is a down the line winner and I’m like, I just want to punch her,” Petkovic said laughing. “That would probably be my biggest chance (against her), but then I really like her so I can’t do that either.
“So, I just yell at her when we have dinner afterwards. That was the usual game plan in the last past years. But hopefully now I’ll get her to yell at me at dinner. That’s the game plan.”
• World No. 1 Naomi Osaka‘s career main draw record on clay is 9-11, which pales in comparison to her 73-45 success on hard courts. (She’s 10-7 on grass). Fortunately for the 21-year-old whose last match on clay was 327 days ago, Osaka has only 200 points to defend during the clay-court season. Not bad when you compare her numbers to World No. 2 Simona Halep, who has 2,900 points to defend.
Osaka told the WTA website that she feels with more experience, she can be successful on clay. “For sure, I feel like the way that I play is very open. It’s not just for one surface.
“I always thought even though I lost in the third round consistently at the French Open, I always played good players and they always went far. I do think I have chances. It’s just knowing what shot to hit at a specific moment is real important for me.”
• Qualifier Mandy Minella of Luxembourg, ranked 108th, is one of three mothers in the Stuttgart draw alongside Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva. All three were in action on Wednesday. Following the 31-year-old Minella’s 6-2, 6-4 loss to Belinda Bencic, 11 years her junior, the other two mothers faced one another on Centre Court at Porsche Arena. Azarenka beat Zvonareva, 7-5, 6-4.
What they’re saying
• More Andrea Petkovic on Angelique Kerber, courtesy of WTATennis.com: “She has a tremendous sense of humor and that’s what I really like about her. You can totally taunt her and she would never get angry. Actually, she would give it back. She would probably just send me a screenshot of the head-to-head and be like ‘please be quiet Andrea.’
“She has a great sense of humor. I just think the way she expresses herself in front of press, she just like to keep things to herself. But I think her personality is much more than what you only see of her.”
• No. 22 Daria Kasatkina, who beat No. 18 Elise Mertens on Tuesday for just her third win this year, as quoted by WTATennis.com, “First of all, clay season is associated with Europe which for me is forever in my heart, because I love Europe. I love everything around and clay is part of Europe. There is only one tournament in the United States on clay, everything else is in Europe. I’m a big fan of this time, like one and a half months we are here finally.
“For sure, it’s pumping me up. All the battles on the clay court, it’s so special, the sliding, the emotions, everything. So, I’m very excited. I was waiting for this part of the season.”
On Thursday, Kasatkina will face Donna Vekic, who advanced over lucky loser Giulia Gatto-Monticone, 6-1, 7-5, in a first-round match Wednesday afternoon.
Singles / first round
Hsieh Su-Wei d. Wang Qiang, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Donna Vekic d. LL-Giulia Gatto-Monticone, 6-1, 7-5
Victoria Azarenka d. LL-Vera Zvonareva, 7-5, 6-4
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Julia Goerges, 4-6, 6-2, 4-0 (retired)
No. 8 Anett Kontaveit d. Caroline Garcia, 6-4, 6-3
Belinda Bencic d. Q-Mandy Minella, 6-2, 6-4
Singles / second round
No. 3 Petra Kvitova d. Q-Greet Minnen, 6-1, 6-4
Doubles / first round
Anna Blinkova/Oksana Kalashnikova d. Shuko Aoyama/Lidziya Marozava, 6-2, 6-0
WC-Mona Barthel/Anna-Lena Friedsam d. Kaitlyn Christian/Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 6-1
Belinda Bencic/Alicja Rosolska d. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez/Sara Sorribes Tormo, 6-2, 6-3
Gabriela Dabrowski/Jelena Ostapenko d. No. 2 Anna-Lena Groenefeld-Demi Schuurs, 6-1, 6-2
Thursday’s order of play
Centre Court / From 11:30 a.m.
No. 7 Anastasija Sevastova vs. WC-Laura Siegemund
Not before 1:30 p.m.
No. 1 Naomi Osaka vs. Hsieh Su-Wei
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. No. 8 Anett Kontaveit
Not before 6:30 p.m.
WC-Andrea Petkovic vs. No. 5 Angelique Kerber
No. 4 Karolina Pliskova vs. Victoria Azarenka
Court 1 / From 1:30 p.m.
Daria Kasatkina vs. Donna Vekic
No. 6 Kiki Bertens vs. Belinda Bencic
No. 4 Raquel Atawo/Katarina Srebotnik vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/Lucie Safarova.
Belinda Bencic/Alicja Rosolska vs. Gabriela Dabrowski/Jelena Ostapenko