NEW YORK, NY, USA - For the second time in the past 15 months, No.26 seed Julia Goerges has eliminated No.7 seed Kiki Bertens from a Grand Slam, pounding her way into the fourth round of the US Open for the second time with a 6-2, 6-3 win in one hour and 16 minutes.
The German, who fell in the first round at Flushing Meadows in seven of her first nine appearances here between 2007 and 2015, has now made the last 16 twice in the past three years following her 2017 run to this stage. Having lost to Bertens in the pair's first two meetings, Goerges has also now levelled the head-to-head at 2-2 following two big-stage wins, following her 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 triumph in last year's Wimbledon quarterfinals.
"Overall it was a pretty solid match from my side," assessed Goerges afterwards. "I had the goal to be aggressive, to play my game, and I think I did very well to take her out of her comfort zone - and she gave me a lot of unforced errors on some balls which is unusual for her, but I put the pressure on her so I think that was the reason for it... I think I did the right things to make her feel uncomfortable on court."
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Although Goerges' post-Wimbledon record coming into New York was just 1-3 this year, the Auckland champion had kickstarted her campaign this week with a confidence-building 1-6, 6-1, 7-6(1) first-round victory over Natalia Vikhlyantseva in which she had saved one match point - and she delivered an authoritative opening set for the most part, with the serve and forehand, the bedrocks of her game, in fine order. Winning 11 out of 14 net points over the match also gave Goerges a key edge over a much less controlled Bertens.
"After being match point down in the first round, I can be very happy to be in the fourth round," said Goerges. "You never know where it's going to go to. I'm very pleased with the way I fought in the first match, and I think it was all worth it."
The 2018 Wimbledon semifinalist also agreed that winning such a match was a mental boost: "You appreciate things more - you get another chance, another life."
The St Petersburg and Madrid champion opened sloppily, coughing up two double faults to fall behind 0-2 - a break that set the tone somewhat unfortunately for the rest of the set. Though Bertens broke back immediately, aggressive forehand returns earned Goerges the advantage again - and as her opponent's unforced error tally crept up to 15 in the first set, it was a lead she never relinquished.
Bertens' best chance to get a foothold in the set came in the seventh game, when Goerges threw in a double fault and a few rare errors from 40-15 up, but the Dutchwoman, who had landed only 32% of her first serves, could not take advantage of two break points - and a game later, gave up the set limply with another flurry of poor mistakes before a backhand down the line sealed it for Goerges.
"I played really bad today," said a blunt Bertens afterwards. "I felt good this morning so I don't know why, but the moment I stepped on the court, I didn't feel the ball, didn't feel the body. She was serving well in important moments and hitting some good forehands - I didn't get the chance to get into the match.
"The Slams were not great this year but that's how it goes. I'm still in the Top 10, so I did something else pretty good... Today you cannot call it bad luck, it was just a bad performance. I don't know what it is - we just keep on working and see if next year we can do it a little better."
If Goerges had been mostly solid bar a couple of patches of errors in the first set, she raised her game in the second set by eliminating the looseness. The 30-year-old boomed down a pair of aces to kick it off, eventually tallying five, and raising her first serve percentage from 46% to 55% meant that she did not have to face another break point.
Bertens, by contrast, was unable to stem the flow of errors, with the backhand going particularly awry in the sixth game to fall behind 2-4. That single break would prove decisive. Although Goerges took the scenic route to serving the match out after missing a putative forehand winner by millimetres on her first match point, Bertens was unable to put her backhand into court to take advantage, and the former World No.9 came through with a forehand bullet - inside the line, this time - on her fifth match point. That sets up a fourth-round tilt against No.23 seed Donna Vekic, who ousted Yulia Putintseva 6-4 6-1.