DOHA, QATAR - En route to the Round of 16 a the Qatar Total Open, World No.10 Julia Goerges became the first player to hit 100 aces in the 2018 season.
The German has enjoyed a phenomenal surge up the rankings over the last 13 months, and the primary weapon that has done the damage has been her improved serve. The 29-year-old began the 2017 season outside the Top 50 and made her Top 10 debut earlier this month after a run to the semifinals of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy.
"I do feel my serve has improved, first of all, from the speed. I got up speed-wise, but also the placement is better," Goerges said. "I knew I could serve every variety of every serve like spin, kick and could put it anywhere, but I think there was always room for improvement in the way the ball bounces and the way it really goes into the racquet of the opponent. I think that improved a lot because speed-wise it went up and in every kind of rotation you can put on the ball."
In her career-best season last year, Goerges was striking aces at a rate that exceeded her numbers over nearly all her recent seasons since 2008. Now, 13 matches into 2018, she's besting her 2017 numbers, hitting on average just under 8 aces per match.
Goerges went into her second round match against Barbora Strycova having struck a tour-leading 97 aces and tallied five more en route to a three-set win, bringing her season total to 102 aces in 13 matches.
Goerges is outpacing the field by a fair margin:
2018 Aces (as of February 14, 2018)
1. Julia Goerges: 102
2. Katerina Siniakova: 68
3. Caroline Wozniacki: 62
4. Elina Svitolina: 61
5. Karolina Pliskova: 58
In addition to pounding down aces, Goerges also leads the tour in first serve points won:
First serve points won (Minimum 5 matches, as of February 14, 2018)
1. Julia Goerges: 75.4%
2. Madison Keys: 72.3%
3. Petra Kvitova: 72.2%
4. Elina Svitolina: 72.2%
5. Karolina Pliskova: 71.6%
"I can see the way they return my serve that it must have gotten better because I think they didn't get worse on their return, but just the way it affects their racquet, I can feel that I create more opportunities on my service games, like with the second ball or ace or service winner," Goerges said. "It's much more consistent on my service games."
Through her 13 matches in 2018, which include a run to her first title of the season at the ASB Classic to kick off the year, Goerges has tallied 10 or more aces in four matches. She has hit 13 aces twice, in the first round of the Australian Open and the first round of Auckland. Goerges says the improvements haven't come from any change in technique but from the hard work she's put in the gym.
"It's a combination of everything a little bit, but technically I didn't change anything," Goerges said. "I've been serving the same way as I've always been my career. But just like I think gym-wise, we did work a lot on that. I really can create some damage there."
Statistics and information provided by SAP Tennis Analytics.