Zhuhai | Great Goerges comeback to win Elite Trophy
The way CoCo Vandeweghe came out of the blocks on Sunday to swiftly build a 4-1 and 5-2 lead against Julia Goerges, anyone could have been forgiven for thinking the American would shortly raise the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.
The seventh seed, however, had other ideas and she reeled off 11 of the last 12 games to defeat No 2 seed, 7-5 6-1, in an hour and twenty minutes of enthralling tennis.
“I’m just happy. I think I have not really any words to describe right now. I think I still can’t believe it… It’s just amazing,” said Goerges on conclusion of the match.
It was a big-hitting affair that sealed back-to-back titles for the first time in the German’s career following her win at the Kremlin Cup, Moscow two weeks ago.
Just a month ago, Goerges was on a six-match losing streak in finals, and her title drought stretched back to Stüttgart in April 2011.
I would say it probably helps me a bit to have played already a lot of finals this year and to just come from a tournament win Julia Goerges
Now, the 29-year-old has overturned both statistics in style, and matched her career-best match-winning streak in the process at nine, previously set by following that Stüttgart trophy up with a semifinal in Madrid.
Goerges has been dominant all week, scoring a resounding 6-3 6-3 win over Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova in the semis, before Vandeweghe ended the hopes of 21-year-old Australian Ashleigh Barty with a 6-3 6-3 win on Saturday.
Until this week, Vandeweghe had not won a WTA main-tour match since reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open in September, and was the only semi-finalist without a 2017 title.
The American, however, was growing in confidence and into her second final of the year, having finished runner-up to Madison Keys at Stanford, and is assured of ending the year in the top 10 for the first time.
Goerges said of her win over Sevastova: “It was my best match of the week. I’m just very happy that I could put up this performance today… I think overall I was very patient, and when I had the chance, I really went for it. That it comes out that I’m in the finals, even better. I’m just trying to enjoy it tomorrow.”
Looking ahead to the final, she added: “I would say it probably helps me a bit to have played already a lot of finals this year and to just come from a tournament win.”
Goerges reached three finals in Mallorca, Bucharest and Washington before winning in Moscow.
“Every match starts from zero, and I know it’s going to be my last match of the season, so I’ll just put everything in and try to enjoy it, too, because it’s not happening every day that you’re gonna play a big final, especially at the end of the season.”
Vandeweghe explained that she felt at her most confident when she had plenty of matches under her belt: “I think my results through my whole career have always been early exits or I go deep in tournaments. I play better the more I play on the court. I like to compete. I feel more comfortable, more confident with my strokes.
“You get out there and play a match and win it, and then you’re used to winning. Then you win the second one. It starts to steam-roll from there.
“I’m only playing tennis to enjoy myself. I like to have fun with what I do. Hopefully I’ll have a good showing tomorrow in the final.”
Her run to the final, then, bodes well for US hopes later this month, because after Zhuhai, she is due to travel to Minsk to be part of Team USA at the 2017 Fed Cup final against Belarus.
Goerges and Vandeweghe had played each other four times before, and split their matches, 2-2, so were evenly matched going in to the final.
The two players had suffered just five service breaks between them over the week coming into the final, three for Vandeweghe and two for Goerges, and the match’s momentum shifts hinged on the ability of each to execute first-strike tennis.
Just six points in the entire match exceeded 10 strokes, and during the middle portion of the first set, 24 out of 28 straight points were won by the server.
It was the American who landed the first blow against her opponent’s delivery, hammering huge forehands to break for 2-0.
By the time Vandeweghe had progressed to a 5-2 lead, she had conceded just three points on her own serve, and none whenever she had landed a first serve.
The American, who was in the same imperious form that saw her dismiss Barty in the semis, was breezing to land the opener when the German staged her brilliant comeback.
A loose service game at 5-3, as Vandeweghe served for the opening set, in which she delivered her first double fault at 15-15 seemed to trigger a collapse for the 25-year-old.
Errors, particularly on the forehand side, began to flow and her racket began to fly as she showed her frustration.
Another double fault followed at 5-5, and Goerges carved out a second consecutive break of serve as Vandeweghe netted a volley.
She had not needed a second invitation as she won seven straight games to snatch the set, 7-5.
Vandeweghe, already assured to finish the first season for the first time into the top 10, asked for Pat Cash’s suggestions, but her mistakes became even more frequent and her impatience grew.
By contrast, Goerges employed judicious slices and often came to the net to destabilise her opponent.
The German was simply unstoppable in the second set as she again broke the American, who only won one of the last 12 games in the match as the 29-year-old pinned her with a barrage of winners.
The shaken Vandeweghe never recovered, and her first serve percentage dropped to just 37%.
Three further double faults followed in the first game, and consequently so did a third straight loss of serve for the World No 12.
By contrast, Goerges was going from strength to strength, employing both judicious slices and intermittent net forays effectively to drop just one point on serve in the second set.
Another Vandeweghe double fault followed in the fifth game and, having forged a 5-1 lead, Goerges accelerated over the finishing line, hammering a pair of forehand bullets en route to sealing the title with a fifth break of serve.
She completed the victory with a crosscourt return winner on her second championship point to take the title in 80 minutes, screaming in delight after completing a stellar year in which she won two titles and reached five finals.
Asked how she felt about receiving the trophy from tournament ambassador Stephanie Graf, Goerges said it was ‘a very special moment’.
“I think she was very happy to give the trophy to a German player,” she said laughing, adding that the exchange, which included getting a picture, ‘was probably worth it more than millions’.
“It is a complete new Julia. I am much more mature, more developed. I just try to do my thing. I have a different mindset right now,” she added.
“There’s no better way to finish a season like that. It is just amazing.”
The Zhuhai round robin tournament featured the next-best 12 players who did not qualify for Singapore’s eight-person WTA Finals, with Goerges moving to a career-high ranking World No 14 and collecting about $900,000.
She joins other Elite Trophy winners Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams.
Vandeweghe will rise into the Top 10 for the first time to finish the year at No 10.
Duan and Han take Zhuhai Doubles honours
Ahead of Julia Goerges taking on Coco Vandeweghe in the final of the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai on Sunday, the doubles championships was completed.
Duan Ying-Ying and Han Xinyun were victorious in an all-Chinese final losing just three games to compatriots Lu Jing-Jing and Zhang Shuai, 6-2 6-1, after an hour and nine minutes.
The title is the first WTA doubles crown for Duan, who was playing in her first WTA doubles final on Sunday, while Han wins her second career trophy in her sixth career final.
Five of Han’s six career WTA doubles finals have come in her home country, but she was victorious on home soil for the first time, having previously raised her first WTA trophy at the Hobart International alongside American Christina McHale last year.
A pair of game points went by on the Zhang serve as Duan and Han engineered an opening break, setting the tone for the match.
Four of the six break points that the No 6 seeds faced came in their opening service game of the first set, but they nonetheless managed to hold on, building a double break advantage by the first sit-down and restoring it with a love break of the Lu serve in the seventh game.
The second set began in much of the same fashion, as Duan and Han started to cruise by building a second double-break advantage at 3-0.
Using the combination of Duan’s right-handed firepower and Han’s left-handed angles, the duo never faced a break point in the second set, dropping just three points on serve.