CHARLESTON, SC, USA - No.5 seed Julia Goerges advanced to the semifinals at the Volvo Car Open for the first time in her career on Friday afternoon, thanks to a 6-4, 6-3 win over defending champion Daria Kasatkina to begin play inside Volvo Car Stadium.
Seven years after her last quarterfinal appearance on Charleston's green clay, No.5 seed Goerges served nine aces and won 84 percent of the points behind her first serve en route to a one hour, 17-minute victory.
"I'm pretty happy about my performance today. I think it was another improvement from my first, second to third match, and I'm just very glad about it," Goerges said on-court after the match.
"It's my first semifinal here and it's been a while since I was here the last time and playing well. Charleston is a beautiful city...and I'm very happy that I can play well here."
After falling behind an early break after the third game of the first set, Goerges was hardly tested on serve for the rest of the match and broke the Russian's delivery a total of three times.
The German No.2 hit 33 winners over the course of the match to just 18 unforced errors, with her aggression stifling Kasatkina's attempts to open the court and play the patented counterpunching game which took her to last year's title.
"The key was to be patient and wait for opportunities to be aggressive. I'm an aggressive player but sometimes, I need to wait two or three more balls," Goerges added.
"She's a very good mover but at the same time, if she steps in, she creates some great angles and height on the ball. I tried to take that away from her and I'm glad that it worked. I was prepared to battle it out today because I know Daria is a very good player in general, but especially on clay. The balls are pretty heavy to the racquet, and I just made sure that I had to move well, to prepare well and be ready for the ball when they meet my racquet.
"I served pretty big today, which was also good key, of course. If you have good service games, you can put more pressure on the return games, and I think that was a good combination today."
After breaking back immediately to even the first set at 2-2, Georges fired down a love hold and never trailed again in the match.
Though Kasatkina hung tough on her own serve for much of the match in response, the No.5 seed earned the decisive break of the first set in the final game, and rode a break in the sixth game of set two through to victory.
"I improved a lot since I played my first match here, and it sometimes happens in a
tournament that you don't feel well, but you manage to find a way to get through it, and then you never know where it's going to end," Goerges reflected after the match, referencing a three-set comeback against American Kristie Ahn in the earlier rounds.
"Now I am in the semis, which I am very pleased about, and especially the way I played today."
In defeat, Kasatkina proved reflective - as the World No.12 saw the first title defense of her career come to an end.
"She was playing really well, and her serve was working very good today...even [when] I had the opportunity to turn the game, she was going for an ace or something like that," Kasatkina said. "It's one of the most difficult parts of playing the aggressive player, but she was better today than me, so well deserved.
"I was really upset after the match. I'm happy that I have this experience now, and I went through this and I'm pretty sure next time is going to be much easier. I think this is very, very important experience, which I am happy to get here in Charleston."
Goerges' success this week ensured that a German will feature in the semifinals in Charleston for the fifth straight year, as she joins Laura Siegemund, Angelique Kerber (twice) and Andrea Petkovic.
"I know we have a good German record here. I saw already some pictures of everyone," she said.
"I can understand why everybody is playing well here. I'm having a good time, too. It's a great city. It's a great atmosphere, great spectators here, and just in general they are doing a terrific job here, and I think all the players are very welcome and that's how I'm feeling, too."
In the semifinals, the German will face the winner of the quarterfinal between No.8 seed Anastasija Sevastova and Kristyna Pliskova.