NEW YORK, NY, USA - An unseeded Ekaterina Makarova resumed her giant-killing ways in the second round of the US Open, defeating No.9 seed Julia Goerges 7-6(10), 6-3 to notch up her thirteenth Top 10 win on the major stage.
"Especially in this heat and everything, I’m so happy that I could go with my plan and finish it in the right way," Makarova told the media, after the match.
"Maybe at the beginning, I was a little bit nervous, because there were a lot of mistakes, no rhythm," Makarova continued. "But both of us were serving good."
The Russian has been slaying seeds at Slams for over a decade now: her first such upset came at the 2007 US Open when, as a qualifier ranked No.156, she defeated No.28 seed Ai Sugiyama in the second round. A first Top 10 win at a major followed in 2008, with No.10 seed Anna Chakvetadze the victim in the first round at Flushing Meadows.
Since then, Makarova's Grand Slam scalps have included Serena Williams (2012 Australian Open), Angelique Kerber (2013 Australian Open, 2017 Roland Garros), Simona Halep (2015 Australian Open) and Caroline Wozniacki (2017 US Open, 2018 Wimbledon).
Today's result was an immediate revenge for the 30-year-old, who had lost 6-4, 6-2 to Goerges just last week in the New Haven quarterfinals. That, however, had only been the German's first win in three attempts against Makarova, who had triumphed in the fourth round of the 2015 Australian Open and again in the final of Washington in 2017 to lift her third career singles trophy.
"We played so many times before," Makarova said of Goerges. "Last week, she beat me there. She’s a tough opponent, and I knew that I needed to work today, to be solid, because she’s a big server, and I need to concentrate on my serve."
As might be expected with two of the biggest serves on tour squaring off against each other, the quality of each player's delivery was paramount - and initially, both were efficiently impenetrable. Through the first nine games, only one break point came - and went - for each, Makarova missing her opportunity in the first game with an errant pass and Goerges spurning her chance by overpressing on a second serve return in the sixth game.
With Makarova serving to stay in the set at 4-5, the hitherto routine pattern of the match took a turn for the dramatic. The World No.45 was forced to save three set points in that game, with Goerges continuing to go for too much on return. In the ensuing tiebreak, Makarova continued to ride that momentum, serving her fourth and fifth aces en route to a 6-2 lead in contrast to Goerges' double fault and subpar dropshot.
A better dropshot from the Wimbledon semifinalist would keep her set alive, precipitating something of a collapse from Makarova, whose aces deserted her as she delivered two double faults on two of her first five set points. In total, the former World No.8 would see eight set points come and go - but as much as her accuracy had left her, Goerges' forehand was proving similarly problematic, and the 29-year-old would never reach another set point of her own in the tiebreak.
Finally, and appropriately, it was a booming service winner down the tee that sealed the set for Makarova on her ninth attempt.
The 2014 US Open semifinalist would be even more dominant on serve in the second set, sending down another three aces and maintaining a 76% first serve percentage. Makarova was all but flawless behind her delivery, winning four out of five service games to love; the only four points she dropped on serve came in a row in the seventh game, when she found herself break point down having had a 40-0 lead. That, though, was erased with another Goerges error, this time a netted backhand - one of 29 unforced errors the Hobart champion would commit compared to 22 winners. By contrast, Makarova's ratio of 20 winners to 14 unforced errors would be superb given her aggressive strategy.
Though Goerges was still able to hold comfortably for the most part, she was made to pay for a lapse in concentration in the sixth game. Two loose backhand errors put her 0-30 down, and Makarova sealed the break with two stunning passes - the second after one of the best points of the match, nailed off a Goerges overhead.
Now in the third round at the US Open for the eighth time in her career, Makarova will face No.19 seed Anastasija Sevastova for a spot in another Slam second week - her second of the season following a fourth-round run at Wimbledon.
"[Sevastova's] another good player, she plays very good here," Makarova stated. "We also played a lot of times against each other, and she’s a bit different style of player, with different shots. But I definitely want to enjoy my win today, and will be ready for the next round."