AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Julia Goerges had to come back from a set down and save match points against an inspired Eugenie Bouchard to return to the ASB Classic semifinals.
No.2 seed Goerges, last year’s champion, struck 47 winners and fired seven aces to extend her Auckland win-streak in epic fashion, edging through in the marathon 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6) encounter.
Both players struggled with the swirling winds, which often made it tough to serve and track the ball in the air.
“I think this was one of the toughest matches I’ve ever played, and probably the toughest here in Auckland,” Goerges told press afterwards. “The winds today were swirling around, coming suddenly and then gone. Chairs flying around, hats, everything. But you cannot do anything about it, you just have to accept it and stay positive about it.”
She added, “I think it was, for these conditions, a pretty good match - especially the third set and the tiebreaker. We both made the best out of it. Overall I’m very satisfied.
:The biggest part of my game today was finding solutions, trying to find ways to come back in that third set - which I did really well.”
Bouchard, who was vocal before the tournament about “going back to basics” and returning to her “aggressive” style of play, made good on her resolution against Goerges, taking the ball early and hitting clean winners off both wings.
The swirling winds in Auckland wreaked havoc on Goerges’ serve, but Bouchard seemed unfazed, recording just three unforced errors in the entire set. The Canadian’s deep groundstrokes kept Goerges on the back foot, and she was rewarded early on with a break at 3-1.
Goerges couldn’t seem to find the answers against Bouchard - she created break points in just one game, and wasn’t able to convert - and the unforced errors piled up as the set wore on, 13 in total. Bouchard kept the Goerges serve under pressure in her next two service games - including a break point for the set at 5-2 - before calmly closing out the set.
Bouchard took her foot off the gas pedal in the second set, however, and the German pounced on the chances. With her serve finally firing, Goerges cut down on her unforced errors and outhit Bouchard with 16 winners to just two in the set.
After staying toe to toe for the first couple of games, Goerges dialled up the pressure, bringing up break chances at 2-2 and then earning her first break of the match at 4-2 after a spectacular backhand down the line. The German dropped just one point after that, and sent them into a deciding set in emphatic fashion.
But Goerges’ fortunes changed again as Bouchard got back on track - the Canadian built up a daunting 3-0 after claiming an early break with a marathon game. The defending champion rallied, reeling off three games in a row to erase the break and get them back on level terms.
There was little to separate the two players in the games that followed, both fully dialed in as the match reached its critical point. Each player had an answer for everything the other threw her way: Bouchard’s booming returns canceled out Goerges’ powerful serves, Bouchard fought off break point at 4-4 while Goerges saved match point at 6-5 - sending the match into a tiebreak. Both players brought their best tennis, covering the court beautifully, but it was Goerges who eventually escaped with the victory, converting her third match point in epic fashion to seal the match after two hours and 21 minutes on court.
“Overall I enjoyed the battle,” Goerges said. “It makes you better. These are the kinds of matches that you want ahead of a Grand Slam. Those matches make you better, that’s all you can ask for, and that’s what I got today.
“I’ve played [Bouchard] in Luxembourg and I knew that she was already playing much better. She’s working very hard, we know she’s capable of playing great tennis, so I expected a tough match. What we saw today, I think she’s developed totally in the right direction. I’m pretty sure she’s going back up the rankings again.”
Next up for Goerges, 20-year-old Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova awaits in the semifinals. Kuzmova ended the fairytale Auckland run of American youngster Amanda Anisimova earlier in the day, winning 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to advance to the final four.