AUCKLAND, New Zealand - No.2 seed Julia Goerges thundered into the second round of the ASB Classic, outlasting 2016 Olympic Gold medalist Monica Puig, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
Goerges ended 2017 on a nine-match winning streak, winning two titles at the Kremlin Cup and the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, but faced more than a few uncertainties in extending that run, taking on a player she'd never beaten in four previous meetings not before 11PM after extensive rain delays in Auckland.
"I’ve never beaten Monica before, and I’m just very happy to be in the second round," Goerges explained after the match. "I got through some really tough moments today, and I’m happy with how I fought and stayed in the match at the end."
The German veteran captured the opening set, but Puig showed off her famous fighting abilities to level the match, breaking serve in a titanic tenth game to force a decider.
Exchanging breaks early in the third, Goerges saved a break point to hold for 4-2 and never looked back, serving out the victory after two hours and 12 minutes on court.
"I knew if I won, I’d have a day off tomorrow, which is always nice, especially when it’s the first match of the year. So a late finish doesn’t bother me. This was actually better for my jet lag, because I’d been going to bed at 9:30 every night!"
Goerges has long enjoyed success in Auckland - finishing runner-up in 2016 and reaching the semifinals last year - which undoubtedly helped her retain a strong fan presence well into the night.
"I’m enjoying my time here, and appreciate how many people stuck around so late to watch. It’s 1:30, and I appreciated the support I got."
Up next for the No.2 seed is either qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova or local wildcard Jade Lewis.
Earlier in the day, Kirsten Flipkens captured a three-set thriller of her own, dismissing No.8 seed Donna Vekic, 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4.
While Goerges already knew hers was a night match, Flipkens was scheduled for the largely washed out day session, causing the Belgian endless issues throughout the afternoon.
"It was such a long day," she said after the match. "I arrived here at 10AM this morning, and we had to wait, wait, wait because of the rain. I warmed up six or seven times, which is exhausting, physically. But I got through and I’m happy."
Flipkens improved to 4-0 against the young Croat, and will next play either Polona Hercog or compatriot Alison Van Uytvanck.
"My hard work paid off and I hope to be ready for the next match. We always have close matches; last year was 7-6 in the third, and I know I’ve never lost to her but she’s still young, and has improved a lot. It’s good to have this win to start the season."