MOSCOW, Russia -- 17-year-old lucky loser Olga Danilovic of Serbia pulled off a stunning upset in the quarterfinals of the Moscow River Cup on Friday, dismissing top seed and World No.10 Julia Goerges of Germany, 6-3, 6-3, to claim her first Top 10 win and advance to her maiden WTA semifinal.
"Every win here is important, especially since I played with one of the top players in the world right now," Danilovic told the press, after her match. "It’s an amazing feeling, an amazing win."
The left-handed Serbian sensation had never faced a player ranked in the Top 10 before her encounter with Goerges, but she was unfazed by her inexperience against the top players, overpowering Goerges in only 76 minutes to claim the biggest victory of her career.
Danilovic ended the tilt with 14 winners and 11 unforced errors; she also won 72 percent of points on her first serve, and claimed nearly 60 percent of points on her opponent's second serve. Goerges matched the teenager's 14 winners, but was undone by 20 unforced errors, including five double faults, which were often quite untimely.
"There’s not such a big plan with these kind of players, she’s by far one of the best players in the world," Danilovic explained. "[My team] just told me to play my game, to try and be focused all the time, not to panic, not to go up-and-down in my game, to keep my serve. I knew that she has a huge serve, so I was just trying to find my place, to find the right spots to play, and to fight till the end."
Danilovic's loss in the final round of qualifying to Paula Badosa Gibert now seems quite far away. "I played like the first match at something like 10:00, and I finished, and I think my mom actually bought the tickets back," said Danilovic.
"We went to Red Square, and we were walking, and my coach, he called me and said, 'You have to come back!' I said, 'Why? I lost, I leave tomorrow.' He said, 'No, you’re playing tomorrow.'"
Danilovic will now face No.5 seed Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus in the semifinals. Sasnovich moved into the final four without hitting a ball, as her prospective opponent, No.3 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, pulled out in advance of their quarterfinal encounter due to injury concerns.
Danilovic got off to a rip-roaring start in the first set, using her power game to blast through the opening frame without facing a break point. At 2-2, the teenager was forced to deuce after leading 40-0, but she did not flinch, using her strong lefty forehand to get out of trouble and hold for 3-2.
The Serb then cracked the set wide open in the following game, swiftly moving to double break point, then taking the Goerges service game with a scintillating return winner to lead 4-2. After a quick hold for 5-2, Danilovic found herself in complete control of the opening set.
After Goerges held with difficulty for 5-3, Danilovic served for the set. If the 17-year-old was tense, she did not show it, closing it out with ease once Goerges sent a backhand passing shot long. The big-hitting Serb had seven winners to only five unforced errors in the set.
Right from the outset of the second set, Danilovic kept her momentum rolling, breaking an error-prone Goerges in the first game to extend her lead over the 2018 Wimbledon semifinalist. But Goerges finally saw her first break point of the match when Danilovic was serving at 2-1, and the German converted it with a forehand winner to level the set at 2-2.
Danilovic, however, continued to impress her power game upon the top seed, thumping outstanding service returns against the WTA’s ace leader for 2018 to break again for a 4-3 lead. The lucky loser then fended off two break points to hold for 5-3 -- the first one was squandered by Goerges as she needlessly slammed an overhead wide.
The German was facing an uphill battle at this point, and threw in two double faults in the next game to give Danilovic triple match point. A duo of service return miscues by the Serb erased the first two, but on the third, Goerges sent a backhand error long, and Danilovic celebrated a famous victory with a mix of wonder and glee.