MOSCOW, Russia - Top seed Julia Goerges looked right at home in her first match in the inaugural Moscow River Cup, knocking out Slovak youngster Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-1, 6-0.
"I was actually expecting a tough match because I knew her from the second round in Auckland," she said after the match." I was just playing very well today, very solid, and I didn’t make too many mistakes. I’m pretty pleased with my performance, especially after coming from grass and then re-adapting to clay courts.
Goerges is fresh off a run to her maiden Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon - where she fell to 23-time major champion Serena Williams - and appeared in imperious form as she transitioned back to clay from grass, needing just 56 minutes to secure victory on Center Court. In the last year, she has perfomed especially well in Russia, winning the Kremlin Cup and reaching the semifinals at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy.
"I like Russia. The first time I came here was in 2016 for the Kremlin Cup. I always had a great time here; people are very friendly, and they do a great job at these events. They’re very well organized. I’m loving it here and hopefully I can do well. I’m also having a good time, and that’s also important."
At 20 years of age, Kuzmova has enjoyed a stellar surge up the rankings, closing in on a Top 50 debut after a pair of $100K ITF Pro Circuit titles and a semifinal appearance at the Libéma Open, but had few answers to Goerges' effortless power, particularly on return, where she found herself unable to engineer a break point throughout.
"I always like going from grass, to clay, and then to hardcourts, because it’s a nicer transition for me to get into rhythm for hardcourts. I didn’t expect to begin in the first round this well, especially because there are so many great players here and every match is tough. I’m very happy with my match today, but the second round is waiting, and I’m already looking forward to that one."
In what was a near-perfect performance for the 29-year-old veteran, she struck 23 winners to just five unforced errors, winning twice as many points as Kuzmova to book a second round meeting with hometown favorite Natalia Vikhlyantseva.
The Russian was similarly efficient in her 6-4, 6-0 victory over Italian qualifier Deborah Chiesa earlier in the day.
Goerges and Vikhlyantseva leads their head-to-head, 2-0; their first meeting came last fall in Moscow at the Kremlin Cup in three sets, while their BNP Paribas Open encounter was decidedly more emphatic for the German, 6-4, 6-1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
"I think I’m used to playing Russians in Russia, but the crowd is always really fair, so it’ll be a nice match-up. I’ve played her twice, but both were on hardcourts, so I’ll see how it goes on clay. I’ll go to the practice courts, and check out where I end up on the schedule."