CHARLESTON, SC, USA - Last year’s Charleston finalist Julia Goerges is back at one of her favorite events, and she told press that she’s eager to use the Volvo Car Open as a springboard for the rest of the clay season.
The No.7 seeded German cut a relaxed figure at Charleston’s WTA All-Access Hour on Daniel Island, chatting with a round table of journalists before the start of the tournament.
“There are no other feelings than last year, I think just great memories in the back of your mind,” Goerges said, explaining how she approaches the unique role of ‘defending finalist’.
“It was a great event last year and I’m pretty sure it will be a great event this year as well. It doesn’t matter what the result is going to be, I’m just really happy to be back here.”
Last year, Goerges tore through the Charleston draw en route to her then-14th career final. Along the way, she took down No.10 seed Naomi Osaka, No.3 Daria Kasatkina and No.8 Anastasija Sevastova - all in straight sets - before falling to a dominant Kiki Bertens in the final.
The run was a continuation of the momentum she had built up in 2017, where she won back-to-back titles in Moscow and the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai - her first WTA trophies since 2011 - in a surge that the German referred to as her ‘second career’.
“I thought, at that point, that I really needed a change to really get things going again,” she reflected. “I wasn’t really happy the way I was performing. And the way I was with my personality, I was not really fair to myself at the time.
“I think overall I changed a lot. I’m a different person now, I think I’m much more open and open minded with what’s coming next. And at the end of the day, it’s just a game. And if we understand how this game works then we can all live better with it.
“I found a way to understand what a loss means, what a win means, and I think that’s much more worth it to just be so disappointed and unhappy if you lose. Because the next day, nobody cares about it - and the same when you win too. If you learn a lot out of this situation then I think it makes you stronger and more mature.”
The change in perspective has done more than just brought Goerges to new career heights. It’s also helped her manage the disappointment of tough losses like the ones she’s faced in 2019. After starting the year winning her second-straight Auckland title, the German has struggled physically with viral illness and found herself unable to play her best tennis, recording back-to-back second-round losses in Indian Wells and Miami.
“I think I started the year pretty well, like I did last year,” she explained. “I was playing solid, I would say. It was not spectacular good, but I was winning the matches I had to win.
“But my body was not really 100% the last two months, I got sick twice - and then coming into Indian Wells there was something coming around, which I also got. But I’m very happy with the way my body is right now - we put a lot of work in when we could start again.
“Looking toward the clay season, I think my game suits clay really well so I’m putting the focus onto the fitness, and for me footwork is a big part of my game since I’m very aggressive. I think we did a terrific job in the last two or three weeks, and I can feel that already in practice. I’ll try my best to put that on the court during the matches as well.”
Goerges explained that she’s looking forward to using her experience in Charleston - regardless of the result - as a springboard into a strong Eurpoean clay season, although her adjustment to the changes in surface will prove to be a bit more complicated for the German Fed Cup member.
“I go back after [Charleston] on the hardcourts (for Fed Cup against Latvia) and then I go back on clay (in Stuttgart),” she said. “So for me it’ll be changing and then changing again. But I think it’ll be a good opportunity for me to really start already on clay and then go back to Europe on hard and then clay again, because you have already that experience - it’s been a long time since the last time we’ve played on clay.
“I’m pretty happy with the way that practices are going - you never know the way that matches will turn out, but I think if you put the work in you will see the reward at some point.”
With the joys of her ‘second career’ no longer tied to wins and losses, Goerges now looks forward to a different prize at the end of the week: a trip to her favorite Charleston haunt: Halls Chophouse.
“It’s one of my favorite restaurants - I do enjoy it a lot, and I love meat, so for me it's a really nice place to go,” she grinned. “I went there last year, I already went there this year - hopefully I can go one more time at the end of the week.”
No.7 seed Julia Goerges kicks off her Charleston campaign against Taylor Townsend later this week.