AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Julia Goerges claimed her second-straight Auckland title in epic fashion, surviving a nail-biter against Canadian qualifier Bianca Andreescu at the ASB Classic.
Playing in just her fourth WTA main draw, 18-year-old Andreescu reached the championship match after head-turning wins over top seed Caroline Wozniacki and former World No.1 Venus Williams. She played like a veteran against last year’s champion Goerges, seeking to become the first qualifier to win this event since 1997.
But Goerges put an end to that dream run after a marathon battle, needing an hour and 45 minutes to triumph 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the championship match.
With the victory, Goerges also becomes the third player ever to win back-to-back Auckland titles, after Patty Fendick (1988-89) and Eleni Daniilidou (2003-04).
"It feels very good. A nice relief, I must say," Goerges said. "I didn't really get a foot on the court in the beginning. I didn't really feel my game but I changed my tactics a little bit.
"Once again this week I found a way to manage to win. It was probably more worth it than a 6-2, 6-2 [routine victory]. For me, a great start to the year.
"I'm going to enjoy the victory right now and tomorrow we're going to decide how best to prepare for the next two weeks."
The trophy looked far away from Goerges in the first set, with her teenage opponent making a dream start to her first career final, notching a pair of confident holds and and early break to open with a 3-0 lead. Veteran Goerges couldn’t seem to find her rhythm, with Andreescu’s heavy pace forcing her to go for too much and misfiring.
A sensational dropshot sealed a double break, leaving Goerges looking a bit shellshocked as the Canadian extended her lead to 4-0. The German’s usually reliable serve - she was last year’s WTA ace leader - wasn’t firing on all cylinders, nor holding up under Andreescu’s scrutiny, and she didn’t hold serve once during the one-sided first set.
But Goerges came out hot off the blocks in the second, breaking Andreescu in the very first game and firing back-to-back aces to consolidate in emphatic fashion. Playing with renewed intensity - and with her powerful serve finally clicking - Goerges comfortably held the lead for the next five games, closing in on the set, but Andreescu had other ideas.
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Andreescu finally got the break back at 4-4, and pushed herself to within a few points of the title at 5-4 - but defending champion Goerges rallied to pull herself back from the brink. She found some strong returns to break once more at 6-5, and then charged ahead to claim the second set.
As the match wore on, Andreescu seemed to show signs of fatigue she was surely feeling after playing eight matches in a row from qualifying and, fully dialled in, Goerges continued to turn the screw in the third set. She claimed another early break to start the set 2-0, and then extended her lead to a daunting double break at 4-1. Goerges reeled off four games in a row and converted her third match point to seal the victory - and the ASB Classic title.
"I think I dominated in the first set and even in the second, but at 5-4 she just started going for her shots more and more," Andreescu said. "I was trying not to focus on the end of the match but obviously in my head I was like 'Oh my God, I'm one game away from winning' - so I think that kind of shifted things.
"It is disappointing but I can't complain - I played quallies, I wasn't supposed to make the finals. I'm really proud that mentally I was able to hang on in there.
"I'll probably be thinking about this for a couple of days but I can't complain. I've had an amazing week, beaten a lot of top players and I'm really proud of myself. My game evolved from the first match I played here 'til the end and hopefully I can bring that into my next couple of tournaments."