Zhuhai | Glorious Goerges reaches Elite Final
Germany’s Julia Goerges extended her winning streak with a comprehensive win over Anastasija Sevastova in the first semi-final of the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy in China, 6-3 6-3, on Saturday.
The two had played each other five times previously, with the balance tipped slightly in favour of the German, who won three of those meetings, but the Latvian had won the pair’s last meeting, coming through in three sets in the final of the Mallorca Open earlier this year to give her a first and only title of the season.
Goerges, aged 29, used her powerful serve and forehand to keep the Latvian at bay, pushing her back behind the baseline for the most part in what proved to be an almost routine encounter.
Posting straight set wins in both her Azalea Group matches, against Magdalena Rybarikova and Kristina Mladenovic, the German’s record since the start of the grass court season now stands at 28‐10.
She came into Zhuhai ranked No 18, her highest position since January 2013, and will finish the year in the Top 20 for the first time since 2012, and will be the highest‐ranked German.
She moves to No 16 or 17 by reaching the final, depending on who she plays, and a new career‐high of No 14 if she can win the title on Sunday.
The 7th seed dispatched the fifth-seeded Sevastova, two years her junior, in an hour 11-minutes in front of tennis royalty and fellow countrywoman, the legendary Stephanie Graf.
In round robin matches, the Latvian saw off Sloane Stephens and the in‐form Barbora Strycova in straight sets with the loss of just 15 games to register her first wins since US Open, but she could not extend her run against the rampant German.
From the get-go, Goerges stamped her authority on the match, breaking the World No 15 in the very first game and never looked back.
The German struck 41 winners, 18 from her own renowned forehand wing.
In a 40-minute opening set, Sevastova was forced to dig into her bag of tricks just to keep in touch with her soaring opponent, but though she could still come up with the occasional delight of a drop-shot, it was an uphill struggle.
Of the three games the 27-year-old managed to get on the scoreboard, two were multi-deuce tussles in which the Latvian had to save break points, all with timely service winners.
By contrast, the Goerges delivery was impregnable.
Although she was taken to deuce in two of her first three service games, she did not face a break point over the course of the entire match, and allowed Sevastova just four points on return in the second set, taking 26 of her final 30 service points of the match.
Having become just the third woman to hit the 400-ace mark in a single season this week, following Serena Williams in 2012-15 and Karolina Pliskova in 2014-17, Goerges extended her total for the year to 410 with a further five aces today.
It was the quality of the second serve that made Goerges’ day all the more glorious.
While her first serve percentage dipped to just 59%, the Moscow champion was able to win 76% of her second service points, almost on a level with the 77% of her first service points won.
In a repeat of the first set, Goerges broke Sevastova off the bat at the start of the second, taking full advantage of her opponent’s second serve to run around her forehand and smack a crosscourt return winner.
In the subsequent game, she was even able to counter the US Open quarter-finalist’s drop-shots to extend her lead to 3-0.
After that, the match settled into a pattern of straightforward holds that saw Goerges comfortably over the finish line, ending with a backhand winner down the line.
Having endured a six-year title drought since 2011, the German will have a chance to lift back-to-back trophies tomorrow against CoCo Vandeweghe, as well as equalling the longest WTA-level winning streak of her career to date at nine, originally set in 2011.
Vandeweghe serves past Barty into the final
In the second semi-final of the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy on Saturday, the No 2 seed, CoCo Vandeweghe pitched her talents against the youngest player in the draw, Ashleigh Barty from Down Under, putting in a powerful display to oust her, 6-3 6-3, and reach the final.
The two had never previously met competitively before and despite being the highest seeded ranked player remaining in the draw, Vandeweghe, the World No 12, was the only one of the four semi-finalists to drop a set during the week.
Conversely, Barty, who was the lowest ranked player at World No 20, has lost the fewest games, only 12, of the final four.
All of the semi-finalists have won at least one tournament this year but Vandeweghe is the only one to have won two.
Age 25, the American had also been on court for 3 hours 13 minutes, giving up 16 games, and had to recover from a set down to defeat the Chinese No 1 and wild carded Peng Shuai in first round robin match, securing a spot in her fourth semi of 2017 with victory over Elena Vesnina on Thursday.
Barty, the 9th seed from Australia, is 21 and enjoyed the smoothest passage to the last four, spending just 2 hours 22-mins on court and winning both her Rose Group matches, against Pavlyuchenkova and Kerber, in straight sets, posting a 17‐5 record since Wimbledon.
Prior to her semi-final Barty stepped away from the courts and into the peaceful surround of the Rong Hong school in Zhuhai where she met the local school children, took part in an art lesson and brushed up on her Chinese history.
“This is amazing. This is the most stunning school I’ve ever seen in my life,” Barty said.
“It’s so peaceful and I just find it truly amazing. The architecture’s phenomenal and it was really nice to be here today.”
Back in the spotlight on Saturday, it was the American’s serve that dominated proceedings in the first set, winning all bar one point on her deliveries in the opening set.
Barty had powered past Angelique Kerber and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova this week to reach the final four of China’s season-ending event, but Vandeweghe, who is coached by Australia’s Pat Cash, turned the tables on the 21-year-old, controlling baseline rallies and cruising on her own serve.
Although Barty matched Vandeweghe in high quality, with 19 winners and only 8 unforced errors, she was never able to get a foothold in any of Vandeweghe’s service games, and had to consistently face the pressure of hefty returns from the American, which rarely missed the mark.
The American, who will finish the week in the world’s top-10 for the first time, only lost one point on serve and broke Barty twice in the first set, which she took after just under 30 minutes.
Both players started strongly on serve, combining to lose only four points when serving in the first four games, but at 2-all, Barty fell into a hole, and although she served her way out of four break points, Vandeweghe garnered the crucial break with a stunning backhand winner.
Unfortunately for Barty, Vandeweghe was playing far too well for her to recover from that deficit.
The American won her next two service games at love to lead 5-3 and, in the next game, she hit a perfect backhand crosscourt winner to reach 0-30, from which the Australian could not come back, ceding the set with a forehand unforced error.
It was an expected end to the set, in which Vandeweghe won a momentous 16 straight points on serve.
Barty called her coach onto court ahead of the second, and was given advice which included different positioning on her returns to give her opponent a different look to try to find an answer to the only weapon really separating them.
Any signs that the American would let up in the second set were quickly dispelled in the first game, when she recovered from 15-30 with an ace and a perfectly executed serve-and-volley point to hold.
The Aussie, who was still serving well and cracking forehand winners, often could only watch in dismay, as Vandeweghe’s pristine play never wavered.
Her ever-growing confidence was briefly challenged in the fifth game as she went down 15-30, but she again served her way out of trouble to go up 3-2.
She forced the issue in the next game, bringing up two break points for 15-40, the first of which Barty ably saved with an ace but conceded the second after a long rally in which the Aussie found herself under extreme pressure.
At 4-2 Vandeweghe, who had lost only 6 points on serve in the match thus far, held for 5-2, looking mightily impressive for the final.
Even Barty’s fine serving could not stem the tide, nor could her groundstrokes stand the relentless pressure and she went down 0-40.
The American squandered the first two of her triple match points with errors into the net while Barty aced her on the third and held firmly to narrow the gap.
The imperturbable Australian allowed herself a brief smile as she faced the American’s serve again, hoping to make a dent, but she soon found herself three more match points down and this time round Vandeweghe only required one to complete her win in straight sets.
Despite Barty’s valiant efforts, Vandeweghe’s heavy hitting meant she was always in control of a contest that barely lasted an hour.
“I’m pleased with the way I played. Ash is a really tough player,” said a relieved Vandeweghe after the match.
The loss means Barty will finish the year as high as 16 in the world, up from a career-high 20 to start the week and 323 this time last year.
Vandeweghe will play Julia Goerges in Sunday’s final after the German ousted Anastasija Sevastova, 6-3 6-3, in the other semi-final.
The two players have won 2 matches apiece in their head-to-heads.
In the last match of Day 5, China’s Lu Jing-Jing and Zhang Shuai overcame a sparkling effort by their compatriots, teenage sensations Jiang Xinyu and Tang Qianhui, to advance to the final of the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhaiby, 7-6(3) 6-3.
Lu and Zhang finish the round-robin competition with a 2-0 record in the Orchid Group, emerging as group victors.
They will play another all-Chinese tandem, Duan Ying-Ying and Han Xinyun, in the championship match in Zhuhai on Sunday.