By Jane Voigt
Daniel Island, S.C., April 6, 2018 — Julia Goerges hasn’t played the Volvo Car Open for four years. The break seems to have been worth it. Today, she defeated defending champion Daria Kasatkina. Goerges moves into her first semifinal here and becomes the fifth consecutive German to make the semifinals at this tournament.
“Oh, so we love it here,” Goerges said, laughing. “I know we have a good German record here. I saw some pictures of everyone. No, I mean I can understand why everybody is playing well here. It’s a great city. Great atmosphere, great spectators. And all the players are very welcome.”
Goerges, who currently is ranked No. 13, broke in to the top ten in February for the first time in her career, which began 13 years ago. If she makes the final or wins it, she could break in to the top ten again.
“I think it gets better every match I am playing,” she said, having beaten Kasatkina 6-4, 6-3 today. “I improved a lot since I played my first match here. It was completely different.”
After a bye in the opening round, Goerges was pushed to three sets against Stanford graduate Kristie Awn 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(1).
“Sometimes it happens in a tournament when you don’t feel well buy you manage to find a way to get through it,” Goerges began. “And now, I am in the semis, which I am very pleased about.”
Today, though, she was also pleased with her game, which was consistently offensive and low on unforced errors.
“I was prepared to battle it out because I know Daria is a very good player in general but especially on clay,” Goerges said. “She has a lot of height on the ball and they are pretty heavy to the racquet. I had to move well and prepare well and be ready for the ball when they meet my racquet.”
Goerges’s ground strokes were deep and she briskly moved the ball around the court. She served nine aces, which kept her at the top of the list of most tournament aces. In 2017, she hit 412 aces becoming one of three women to surpass 400 aces for any year. The other two are Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova.
“She was playing really well, and her serve was working very good today, which was the big point for her because [when] I had the opportunity to turn the game, she was going for an ace,” Kasatskina said, shrugging her shoulders as if there was nothing she could do to reverse the momentum.
Although Goerges was happy about her quarterfinal win and first berth in a semifinal at Volvo Car Open, she felt mixed emotions about it, as well. She is a good friend of Kasatkina, saying yesterday that “She’s very special to me.”
“Well, honestly, it doesn’t feel good,” Goerges said, her eyes cast downward. “It’s a nice win for me but at the same time I can also feel for her. We know that she’s going to have a bright future.”
Goerges made her W.T.A. main draw debut as a qualifier at 2007 Doha, but played her first career events on the I.T.F. circuit in Germany in 2005. She is a steady Fed Cup teammate, having been a member in 2008 and 2010-2017. She believes her game on clay has changed over the years.
“It’s nothing like it was five or ten years ago,” Goerges began. “It’s completely different. I’m in a different shape with my body and moving around the court better. My defense has improved a lot. I can defend, but then switch to offense. That’s pretty important in my game because sometimes I need to be patient and not just hit the ball as fast as I can.”
Goerges also believes she has room to improve.
“There is also room for improvement from today’s match,” Goerges said. “But overall I was very pleased the way I handled every situation, even though everything didn’t go the right way especially in first set. But, I still came back.”
Kasatkina, at 20, seemed grateful for what she’d accomplished since the beginning of the year — back-to-back finals in Dubai and Indian Wells and her 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th wins over top-20 players at Indian Wells: Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams. But the experience of defending a title for the first time has been on her mind all week.
“Honestly, I am already empty,” she began. “It was a really tough tournament series in the United States. And yeah, it’s tough. I’m happy that I went through this. As my coach said, ‘like a big girl.’”
Goerges will meet Anastasia Sevastova (No. 8) in one semifinal tomorrow. The Latvian defeated Kristyna Pliskova today 6-4, 6-0.
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