MELBOURNE, Australia – No.18 seed Alison Riske took two hours, 18 minutes to dispatch the challenge of Julia Goerges and progress to the fourth round of the Australian Open with a 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory.
The first set was dominated by the German WTA World No.39 but the second proved much tighter, going the way of the American via a tiebreak.
Despite hitting 42 winners, Goerges, who also struck 45 unforced errors, would be undone in the decider, with Riske’s persistence allowing her to blaze a trail into the second week in Melbourne for the first time.
"I think starting out the match, Julia was definitely at the highest level of her game, in my opinion," the victor said. "I couldn't even touch her first serve. I thought at that point after the first serve: 'Look, if she's able to play like that for the entire match, then that's just too good and it just wasn't meant to be.'"
"I just tried to keep a positive attitude about it and felt like if I could get a couple things going on my end, particularly my serve, maybe get a few returns in play, that, you know, I'd probably have some looks. That's exactly what happened.
"I'm just really proud that I was able to work through it mentally and get the win today."
Goerges came into this encounter holding a 2-1 career head-to-head advantage over the WTA World No.19 and for the duration of the opening set it seemed that she would improve upon that record as she raced through it in under half an hour.
Riske’s opening two serve games resulted in breaks, and though she got on the board in her third, Goerges pounced on her delivery once more to seal a one-sided set.
The powers of recovery of the 29-year-old, though, were evident at the beginning of the second, in which she broke Goerges for the first time.
The duo then exchanged holds until it was the occasion for Riske to serve for the set. Having missed a chance to seal it in Goerges’ previous service game, she was broken to 30, ultimately resulting in a tiebreak in which she fell a minibreak down only to win six successive points and send the match into a decider.
Riske always looked the likelier player in the third, fashioning three break points across her opponent’s opening two service games.
The turning point came when Goerges missed her sole break opportunity of the set. The match rapidly turned in Riske’s favor thereafter, with a break coming in the following game.
Three match points were bravely seen off by the two-time Australian Open semifinalist, but a thumping backhand down the line did the trick on the fourth to send Riske into the last 16, where she will face No.1 seed Ashleigh Barty – a rival she beat at Wimbledon at the same stage last year.
"It's going to be a different experience," Riske said. "I'm playing on her home turf. I expect the fans against me, as they should be.
"And it's going to be a battle. So I'm looking forward to it.
"I've got some doubles tomorrow. We'll suit up the next day for Barty."