ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Julia Goerges produced a big-hitting performance against Maria Sakkari to move into the second round of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy with a 6-2, 7-6(5) victory.
"I'm quite pleased with what's happened on court over the last three months. Hopefully I can win many more matches," the German said in her post-match press conference.
It was the first meeting between these players in the main draw of an event and there was nothing between them in the early stages, until a pair of double faults from the Greek in the fifth game of the first set transformed the match and gave the No.5 seed the impetus she required to move through.
Goerges' power proved decisive and she was delighted to see off a tricky rival.
"I just wanted to focus on my game and be aggressive on my shots," she said during her on-court interview. "I know she's a very good mover and she'll make you see a lot of balls and I just tried to make sure that I was aggressive and taking charge of the game."
Goerges tallied 10 aces over the course of the two sets and faced only two break points, and she admitted it is an area that is vital to her success.
"It's one of my biggest weapons," she said. "We've worked a lot on it. I just hope it can help me out in some tough moments."
There had been no hint of a break point early on, yet from a seemingly comfortable position on serve, Sakkari pushed a little too hard in the face of her powerful opponent and coughed up a couple of free points. A sweet forehand down the line from the German’s racquet moments later sealed the break.
Goerges then hit her rhythm quite spectacularly, hitting winners off both wings and banging down big serves that her 22-year-old opponent was unable to answer.
"These courts are a bit different from Moscow or Zhuhai, for example," she said when asked about her prowess indoors. "We play with different balls here, and the courts are generally slower here. It's not as bouncy as you might expect when you see the court. You have to make sure to take advantage of the new balls to hit some early winners. But I grew up playing indoors, so if you have an aggressive game and don't have to worry about sun or wind, it's definitely an advantage!"
The World No.12 sealed the first set in stunning fashion, bringing up two points for it with a super improvised backhand cross court from an improbable position.
Some of the edge was lost from the German’s game at the beginning of the second set, with her first serve percentage notably plunging, though she still forced Sakkari to work hard to hold serve in the fourth game. The Greek, however, conjured a pinpoint lob on deuce en route to drawing level for a second time, and was then gifted a break as Goerges double-faulted at the critical moment.
A combination of outstanding hustle and ferocious hitting allowed the German to hit back immediately, though Sakkari’s failure to convert a simple overhead contributed to her downfall.
Goerges held serve to love before brining up break point in the following game with her 31st winner of the match – a crushing return that flew onto the line at 130 miles per hour, faster than Sakkari’s serve.
"I'm working very hard with hard with my team, and it's already paid off to start this season - even if I didn't have the best Australian Open. I hope we can achieve many more titles and match wins."
Neither player came under pressure until the 12th game, when the World No.62 was serving to stay in the match. Again she showed impressive character to stay on terms, even fending off a match point to force a tiebreak.
It took 10 points of the breaker for either player to blink. Goerges had endured a dip in her standard and was increasingly making unforced errors, but she had enough firepower to win through thanks to just one minibreak.
She will now face 2016 champion Roberta Vinci in the second round before a potential meeting with No.3 seed Caroline Garcia in the quarterfinals.