AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Defending champion Julia Goerges of Germany picked up her ninth straight match win at the ASB Classic on Saturday, overcoming Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-1, 7-6(6) in 86 minutes, to advance to the final in Auckland for the second straight year.
"Today, I think I came out and played pretty good, and I think the biggest part today was about my legs," Goerges told the media, following her victory. "My legs were working really good, I was moving really sharp, and I was really ready for everything."
"I would say I moved pretty well, played pretty aggressive," Goerges said. "Overall, I think it was a pretty good match from my side."
No.2-seeded Goerges came into the semifinal having won all of her three previous meetings against Kuzmova in straight sets. In fact, their first encounter came in the round of 16 in Auckland one year ago, which Goerges won 6-4, 6-0.
Despite a highly competitive second set, the story remained the same this time around, as Goerges, last year’s ace leader on the WTA, prevailed with her incredible serve, as well as her powerful forehand. Goerges won 76 percent of points on her first serve, and took 56 percent of points off of the Kuzmova second serve.
"Second set, I stepped a bit away from my line and I was not as aggressive as I wanted to be," Goerges explained. "Still aggressive, somehow, but not as aggressive as I wanted to be. So that’s the difference made between first and second sets. If [Kuzmova] starts going into the court, she can hit big shots and open up the court well, and I was a little bit too passive."
Goerges will now face Canadian qualifier Bianca Andreescu in the championship match, as the German continues her quest for her second straight ASB Classic singles title. Andreescu beat former World No.1s Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams earlier in the week, and the teenager picked up another upset in the semifinals, defeating No.3 seed Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei.
"Everybody deserves their spot in the final, so [Andreescu] has played some terrific tennis," said Goerges. "[She] must have been playing really well, and beat some really good players, because I think this is probably the best draw the ASB Classic’s had in the women’s game here. I’m not focusing on my opponent -- that’s what I always say. I want to have it in my hands, I want to play my game."
The first set was a master class from World No.14 Goerges. The German blasted two aces to hold in her opening service game, used her thunderous forehand to attain a quick break in the next game, then closed out her subsequent service game with back-to-back aces to claim a 3-0 start.
After Goerges broke again and held for 5-0, World No.50 Kuzmova finally demonstrated the grit which pushed her through to the semifinals at the very end of the opener. The Slovak zeroed in on her groundstroke proficiency to fend off three set points and hold for 5-1 from 0-40 down.
Serving for the set, Goerges dropped the first two points, but the German quickly recovered, slamming a second service ace to reach a fourth set point. This chance would not go begging, as Kuzmova sent a backhand wide to give Goerges the one-set lead. Goerges had 15 winners to only seven unforced errors in the opening frame.
In the opening game of the second set, a rally forehand which skimmed the sideline helped Goerges to an early break, as the German continued her dominant streak in the match. Kuzmova, however, began to power her groundstrokes back at the German more consistently, and after holding her first two break points at 2-1, the Slovakian came through with a love service break at 4-3 to level the set.
By this point, both players were routinely cracking outrageous winners down the lines to blast their way through the late games of the set, as they inexorably moved into the tiebreak. The breaker started with four points against serve before Kuzmova slammed another forehand winner for 3-2. But a Goerges ace brought the tiebreak to 3-3 at the changeover.
A forehand winner gave Goerges a minibreak and a 5-4 lead, and she held two match points at 6-4. Kuzmova stayed aggressive and fended off both, but at 6-6, another miraculous forehand by Goerges kissed the sideline for a winner, garnering her a third match point. There, a Kuzmova service return found the net, giving Goerges a trip to another Auckland final.
"In the tiebreak, overall, I just wanted to be aggressive, I wanted to be the dominant person on the court, which I think I did very well in the first eight, nine games," Goerges stated. "My serve obviously helped me a lot, but I think in the key moments, I was the more experienced player and I played the big points better."