LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg -- No.2 seed Julia Goerges of Germany had to fight to keep her title defense at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open going, battling past Sorana Cirstea of Romania, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round on Thursday.

Defending champion Goerges and Cirstea had split their four previous meetings, but in their first encounter since 2014, it was the 26th-ranked German who came out the victor over World No.76 Cirstea after two hours and ten minutes of hard-hitting action.

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It was the second straight three-set tussle Goerges had to get through in her first two rounds, having also outlasted former Luxembourg champion Misaki Doi in her opener. The German, though, found her way through once more, firing 37 winners to just 24 unforced errors in the high-quality affair.

Goerges will face 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals, after Puig outlasted Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic, 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(6) in a two-hour and 50-minute barnburner earlier on Thursday.

Powerful play from both women was in full effect in the first set, as expected, and neither Goerges nor Cirstea had any issues holding onto serve through 4-4, with no break points appearing up to that juncture. Cirstea continued to roll on her delivery to reach 5-4, holding at love for the third time in the set. 

With the pressure on to stay in the set, Goerges faltered on serve for the first time in response. The German hit a double fault and two unforced errors, and, suddenly, Cirstea had the first break points of the day, which doubled as triple set point. Another double fault by Goerges ceded a love break to her opponent, and Cirstea walked away with the one-set lead.

Break chances appeared much more frequently in the second stanza, as both players had opportunities to break the other’s serve in the first half of the set. However, as expected strong hitting from the duo pulled them out of those predicaments, and they stayed deadlocked through 3-3.

Goerges, though, finally earned her first break of the encounter, firing back-to-back forehand winners down the line from deuce to move ahead 4-3. The German maintained her advantage, consolidating for 5-3 with solid play in the forecourt, and then closed out the set two games later with consecutive aces.

Following an early exchange of breaks in the decisive third set, Goerges found herself down two more break points at 2-1 before gutting out a hold for 2-2. The combatants continued to find their targets with their serves and groundstrokes as the powerful play continued unabated through 4-4.

In that game, Goerges overpowered Cirstea, ending three straight points with fiery forehands to blast her way to triple break point. There, Cirstea double faulted, ceding a extremely crucial break to the German. Serving for the match, Goerges saw one match point slip away, but, after fending off two break points in the game, she converted her second match point after a wide Cirstea forehand.

More to follow...