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Zhuhai | Goerges completes semi-final

Zhuhai | Goerges completes semi-final
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Top seed Kristina Mladenovic was sent out of the Hengqing Life WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai on Friday after failing to win a match in the Azalea group.

Julia Goerges beat the Frenchwoman, 6-2 7-6(4), to reach the semi-finals after topping the group standings, and sent Mladenovic tumbling out of the World top 10 in the process.

“I really wanted to win that match,” Goerges said. “It didn’t matter if I had to win one set, but I don’t want to go out with losing the match and still being in the semifinals. I think that’s a bit weird.

“I think it was more the situation today knowing that I have to win one set to be in the semis. I think that’s something which you don’t experience that often. It’s a new situation, I would say.”

My focus was to win that match, to try to do everything to be able to come out on top at the end. After the first set, I lost a bit my focus and a little bit my tension on the body, so I wasn’t as sharp as I was in the first set. Julia Goerges

Mladenovic needed a straight-sets win to reach the Zhuhai semis but instead went down in one hour, 36 minutes, ceding her number 10 ranking to America’s CoCo Vandeweghe.

It ends a career-high season for Mladenovic, who finished 2016 ranked 42nd but won her first tour title in St Petersburg and reached three other finals this year.

Seventh-seeded Goerges extended her winning streak to 7 matches, having won the last event she contested, the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, which was her first title of the year after losing three finals earlier in 2017.

By winning the Azalea Group, Goerges also completes the final four in Zhuhai, after American CoCo Vandeweghe, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, and Anastasia Sevastova of Latvia won their respective groups yesterday to confirm their positions in the semi-finals.

Mladenovic, by contrast, ends her season with a 12-match losing streak, dating back to the CitiOpen in Washington, DC in early August.

A wonderful start to the year helped her rise into the Top 10 for the first time in her career last month, but the Zhuhai results will cause her to be replaced in this elite bunch by Vandeweghe.

The Frenchwoman made 9 double faults in the match, and could only win 20 percent of the points on her second serve.

On the other side of the net, Goerges drilled 31 winners, outnumbering her 23 unforced errors, and won 7 of 8 points at the net.

Goerges started the match strongly, outpacing the powerful Mladenovic on the forehand side in the first game, and clinching an initial break with a backhand winner down the line.

After consolidating the break for a 2-0 lead, Goerges already had scored 6 forehand winners.

Mladenovic had a chance to level the set, holding triple break point at 3-2 after some good hitting from the backhand side, but Goerges saved all three, the last by chasing down a drop shot and returning it with a drop shot winner of her own.

The German then ran off five straight points to hold for 4-2.

The Frenchwoman dropped her serve again, hitting three double faults in the game, including on break point, to give Goerges the 5-2 advantage and the German held for the 6-2 lead off of a strong serve.

Mladenovic took the initial lead in the second set, breaking for a 3-1 lead with a forehand crosscourt winner off of a drop shot.

Goerges quickly broke back for 3-2, but the No 7 seed ceded another lead to the Frenchwoman after being broken at love when serving at 4-3.

Mladenovic blew her chance to serve out the set at 5-3, when she was broken to love, throwing another 2 double faults into the mix.

Both held for the tiebreak, in which Mladenovic opened by double-faulting again, after which Goerges took the initiative, hitting a backhand winner down the line for a 4-1 lead, and claiming a 5-1 advantage off of a French forehand error into the net.

Mladenovic won her final two points on serve, with a superb volley and an ace, closing the gap to 5-4, but a backhand service return by the Frenchwoman went long on the next point, giving Goerges two chances to seal victory.

The German only required one, hitting a successful volley to close out the match in straight sets.

“My focus was to win that match, to try to do everything to be able to come out on top at the end,” she said.

“After the first set, I lost a bit my focus and a little bit my tension on the body, so I wasn’t as sharp as I was in the first set.

“[Kiki] really stepped well into the court and moved me more around, which I didn’t really quite like, because that’s obviously my game. I tried to make sure that I come on top in the tiebreaker.”

Goerges will now face Anastasija Sevastova, the No 5 seed, in the semi-finals.

The German leads the head-to-head 3-2, but all of her wins came in 2011 and 2012, before Sevastova’s sabbatical from tennis.

Sevastova beat Goerges in the final of the Mallorca Open this year, and this will be their first meeting in five years.

“We know each other for a very long time and have a lot of respect for each other,” Goerges said of Sevastova. “She’s a very tricky player, and she has had a great season, as well.

“It’s just about battling it out tomorrow and the better one should win.”

“We know how tough this competition is. Well, I just try to focus on myself, and it’s nice to finish the matches in two sets, but I don’t mind if I play three or so. But at the end, if I come out on top, I think that’s the most important thing.

“Well, tomorrow is another tough challenge.

“Yeah, she’s a very tricky player, and she has had a great season, as well. Well, it’s just about battling it out tomorrow and the better one should win.

“At the same time, it’s nice to share the court with her, because we have had a lot of connections in the past.

“Well, tomorrow I hopefully come out on top and be able to beat her, but at the end of the day, the better one should win.”


Peng takes win as Vesnina retires

In the second match of Day 4, an under-par Elena Vesnina eventually gave in to her on-going lower back issues and retired in the second set to local wild card Shuai Peng, who claimed her first match win in Zhuhai on Friday when the Russian conceded while trailing 6-2, 1-0.

The Chinese No 1 emerged from the Bougainvillea Group with a 1-1 record, but it was insufficient to allow her to progess into the knockout stage of the tournament.

The 25-year-old, the oldest player in the tournament, lost to CoCo Vandeweghe earlier in the week.

Vesnina was also hampered in her previous round-robin match against Vandeweghe.

Peng, who won the 2017 JiangXi Open in Nanchang for her second career singles title, will finish another year ranked in the world’s Top 30 players.

Her opponent’s medical issues notwithstanding, Peng had a stellar day on the court, hitting 22 winners to only 4 unforced errors before the match concluded.

She also served up 4 aces, and won 18 of 23 points on her first serve.

To her credit, Vesnina was contesting a clean match as well, despite her woes, as the No 6 seed hit 13 winners to only 8 unforced errors before she retired.

She struggled with her serve from the start, however, due to her back problems and she blew a lead while serving down 1-2, hitting multiple double faults in the game to give Peng a crucial 3-1 lead.

Peng, meanwhile, was serving exceptionally well, and sped to a 5-2 lead when the Russian succumbed to another service break, and the set.

Vesnina gave the second set a chance after receiving lower back treatment during the break between sets, but Peng was unbothered by the delay, picking up right where she left off, hitting an excellent down-the-line winner to open the set, and serving beautifully to seal the opening game of the set with an ace.

It was the last game of the encounter, and Vesnina threw in the towel, projected now to finish another year in the Top 20.

“Before the match, I did not know [Vesnina] was injured,” Peng told the media after the match.

“I just hope that she can have some good rest and to be good feeling with next year — and me too, because of my knee.”

Peng has now eked her way into the head-to-head lead against one of her most frequent rivals, grasping a 5-4 record in WTA main draw matches against Vesnina.

“It’s not only singles, doubles we also play many, many times,” said Peng. “I wish in the future we could play more, singles and doubles.”

Peng, who won the 2017 JiangXi Open in Nanchang for her second career singles title, will finish another year ranked in the world’s Top 30 players.

“For next year my goal for singles would be Top 25 or even [Top] 20,” Peng told the press. “And for doubles, I hope that my ranking can go even higher.”


Strycova scores by way of Stephens retirement

Unfortunately for the organisers, the last round robin singles match of the day also ended in retirement.

Leading 5-0 in the opening set, Barbora Strycova ended her 2017 season with a premature victory when US Open champion Sloane Stephens retired to close out round robin play at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai.

The Czech therefore finished group play in the Camellia Group in second place with a 1-1 record, while Stephens finished third behind semi-final qualifier Anastasija Sevastova.

Strycova won her second career WTA title at the Upper Austria Ladies’ Linz this autumn, and will end her season as the Czech No 2 in the rankings behind Karolina Pliskova.

Stephens has not won a match since her shock US Open triumph in New York, stumbling in straight sets in opening matches in Wuhan and Beijing, before also falling to Sevastova earlier in the week.

The American’s season has not yet officially come to a close, as the 2017 WTA Comeback Player of the Year was named on Thursday as a member of the United States Fed Cup team, which will travel to Minsk to face Belarus in the final next weekend.

She joins CoCo Vandeweghe, who is into the semi-finals in Zhuhai, Alison Riske and Shelby Rogers on the team.

About The Author

Barbara Wancke

Barbara Wancke is a Tennis Threads Tennis Correspondent who has been involved in the sport for over 40 years, not only as a former player, umpire and coach but primarily as an administrator and tennis writer contributing over the years to Lawn Tennis, Tennis World, and Tennis Today. She has worked with the Dunlop Sports Co, IMG and at the ITF as Director of Women’s Tennis, responsible, amongst other things, for the running of the Federation Cup (now Fed Cup), and acting as Technical Director for tennis at the Seoul Olympics (1988). She subsequently set up her own tennis consultancy Tennis Interlink and was elected to the Board of the TIA UK where she became the Executive Administrator and Executive Vice President until she stood down in July 2014 and is currently an Honorary Vice President.

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