MOSCOW, Russia -- Julia Goerges will get a fourth chance to claim a singles championship trophy this season.
The 7th-seeded German overcame an inspired effort by 20-year-old Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva in the Kremlin Cup semifinals on Friday, coming through with a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 victory in nearly two hours to make her fourth WTA final appearance of the season.
The first meeting between the two players appeared to have a premature conclusion in the offing, as Vikhlyantseva struggled with a wrist injury early in the first set. But the Russian fought until the bitter end, succumbing only after a high-quality third set.
The 28-year-old German, though, triumphed in the end, as her aggressive play with 34 winners pushed her past the Russian's strong serving and excellent backhands. Goerges also had 8 aces to help her over the line, as she dashed the crowd's hopes for an all-Russian final in Moscow.
It was all Goerges in the opening set from the start. The German broke Vikhlyantseva in the first game of the match when one of her powerful forehands clipped the netcord and dropped over for a winner on break point.
Serving at 4-2, Vikhlyantseva struck a forehand error in the first point of the game, and then immediately sat down in her chair, calling for the trainer. The Russian was highly emotional as she received treatment on her right wrist. She finished out the game, and was broken, and it looked like she might not continue.
Things got more dire for the Russian after Goerges held for a 6-2 lead, clinching the set when Vikhlyantseva hit a backhand service return into the net. Goerges won 80 percent of her service points in the first set.
But the young Russian rebounded from the loss of the set and the injury, and the tables turned in the second set. The amount of unforced errors off the racquet of Goerges increased dramatically, and Vikhlyantseva improved the efficiency of her already solid backhand.
Goerges dropped her serve at 1-0, and then could not get a foothold in any Vikhlyantseva service games in the remainder of the set. Serving down 5-2, Goerges hit two consecutive forehand errors to cede the set to the home-nation heroine, and the match surprisingly stood at one set all.
Goerges upped her service heroics in the deciding set. She did not drop a point in her first three service games, eventually winning 14 consecutive points on her serve to start the set. Nevertheless, Vikhlyantseva was tidy on serve as well, and despite Goerges' early perfection on serve, the set progressed to 3-3.
The World No.27 finally got a look in on Vikhlyantseva's serve at 3-3, and, on break point, Goerges forced an error from the Russian due to a strong forehand, to claim the first advantage of the set.
But, serving for the match at 5-4, and having won 16 of the last 17 points on her serve, Goerges inexplicably faltered. An impeccable service return by Vikhlyantseva was too much for Goerges to handle, giving the Russian break point, which she duly converted to tie the set again at 5-5.
That, however, was Vikhlyantseva's last stand. She dropped serve at love, giving Goerges a second chance to serve for a spot in the final. The No.7 seed would not waste another opportunity, and her serving prowess returned at just the right time. Two consecutive aces closed out the love hold, and the match.
Goerges will have to beat another 20-year-old Russian if she wants to claim this Premier title. She will face Daria Kasatkina in the championship match, after Kasatkina defeated Irina-Camelia Begu in the earlier semifinal on Friday.