MELBOURNE, Australia - It was a special day Down Under for one of the most talented young stars of the WTA, as Julia Goerges battled to a three set win and into her very first Grand Slam second week at the Australian Open.
Facing tenacious Italian Romina Oprandi, who had taken out No.10 seed Francesca Schiavone in the second round, the No.22-seeded Goerges came out erratically, putting together a -7 differential to drop the first set, 6-3 (11 winners to 18 errors). But she cleaned up the numbers in a big way after that, going +17 the rest of the match (36 winners to 19 errors) to win, 36 63 61.
Goerges had a breakthrough season in 2011, highlighted by a sparkling 15-3 record during the European clay court season and breaking into the Top 20. She also reached the third round of all four majors and would end up finishing No.21.
Now the 23-year-old German is in her first fourth round at a Grand Slam.
Next up for Goerges is No.8 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who hit just 10 errors during a 62 62 victory over hard-hitting Kazakh Galina Voskoboeva. Radwanska and Goerges will be playing each other for the first time.
Other players reaching the fourth round on Friday afternoon were No.1 seed Caroline Wozniacki, a 62 62 winner over No.31 seed Monica Niculescu; No.3 seed Victoria Azarenka, who needed five match points to close out Hobart winner Mona Barthel, 62 64; and unseeded Czech Iveta Benesova, who rolled over Russian qualifier Nina Bratchikova in an early match, 61 63.
"I felt like it was up to me what was going to happen out there on the court," said Wozniacki, who hit 23 winners to just 13 errors. "We had a lot of long rallies because she gets a lot of balls back. With her slice forehand it was tough to finish the point sometimes. But I felt like I was in control. I'm pretty happy."
"Mona's a very good player. She has been winning a lot of matches, so is definitely really confident. She was going for her shots," Azarenka said. "In the second set I think I lost a bit of concentration, but I stayed composed and tried to get it back. You have to go through some tough moments sometimes."
Azarenka showed some frustration with line calls towards the end of the match. She talked about the emotions. "I had to get a little bit angry, just to get my emotions going a little bit to finish the match, because I had a few chances and didn't convert them. Sometimes you have to push yourself to get going.
"I'm a very emotional player. If you ever watched my matches, you know I try to control my bad emotions. That wasn't really the case today though.
"The bad emotions are more from back in the day. The beginning of last year was the last one. Breaking racquets, that almost crying face on the court, as a lot of players do. But now I really try to stay composed and control it."
The World No.3 was perfectly composed in her match against Australia's Casey Dellacqua two nights earlier, as the crowd imitated her grunts. "I have no problem with that at all actually. I knew it would happen. They wanted her to win, and I respect the crowd, whatever they do. I just focus on my game."
That focus is evident as she enters matches with headphones on. "I listen to music and dance a bit to get physically prepared, activated, get my mind in a fun mode. I just found a new song on YouTube, Mary J. Blige. I really like it."
Azarenka and Benesova will play in the next round - Azarenka has won all three of their previous meetings in straight sets, including twice last year.
"Iveta is a very trick opponent. She can play really, really well," Azarenka said. "You don't know what to expect - sometimes it isn't really up to you, she can go for her shots and sometimes she misses them. But I think she's very good."