Julia Goerges had a wild match on her hands but came out victorious at the ASB Classic Friday. In a terrific fight from Eugenie Bouchard, the German overcame a loss in the opening set to win the next two with a tiebreak at the end of a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6) match on center court at the ASB Tennis Arena. The victory kept the world number 14’s hopes alive for back to back titles in the event.
The rivalry heated up since their semifinal match at the Luxembourg Open that got the German even in the series with the Canadian. Goerges went on to take the title there marking the sixth in her career. As defending champion in Auckland, the 30-year-old wanted nothing more than to keep her positive situation alive and well with the final match close.
Bouchard received a wakeup call from coach Michael Joyce during her match with Bibiane Schoofs needing to change her attitude. It worked out as a comeback in the decider moved her to the round of eight. With her facing Goerges, it was likely that the 24-year-old superstar would stay in check to try and move forward and get another victory.
She got into trouble on serve falling behind as Goerges gained break point chances. Bouchard climbed back to force deuce and held during the second break. They remained on serve until the fourth when Bouchard gained three break points holding just one to widen the gap. A hold for the 24-year-old made it 4-1 forcing Goerges to call down her coach who told her to adjust and find her way to dealing back the hits. Joyce had Bouchard’s attention as he told her of some weaknesses seen in the German and to go after it.
Goerges knew that she had to get back into the set quick and did so despite having to overcome a short deficit. She continued to battle but with Bouchard still winning service games, the 30-year-old found herself down a set. Bouchard gained two set points on her second attempt to close the first in 46 minutes. It was a key improvement for the Canadian winning nearly 80 percent of points on the first serve that devastated her opponent’s return game.
It was not apparent of her feeling defeated as Goerges started the set with a pair of aces before putting down a winner to hold serve. Bouchard followed along but the moment was clearly in the hands of the German who was intent on not falling out of the tournament. A terrific hold in the fourth from Bouchard took a little bit away from Goerges’ attacks on the return. The situation was becoming tense as the German picked up the pace on serve, wasting no time to secure the hold.
With the lead in hand, the world number 14 went after Bouchard heavily to get the first break holding Bouchard back. A shutout in the seventh caused the Canadian to call down her coach who tried to keep her positive with a third set looming. The wind was a factor in the last couple of games making it difficult for Bouchard to handle the returns. It gave Goerges an easy service game in the ninth to force a decider after 1 hour and 19 minutes.
Control became the order of the third set as Bouchard made sure to hold serve and go big to jump out ahead. With the wind dying down temporarily, the Canadian battled to deuce where she got it on the third break with a forehand error from Goerges. She continued making some wild shots that soon gave the 24-year-old a 3-0 run and a much needed conference with coach Michael Geserer.
The visit helped Goerges bring back her strength on the forehand from the other side of the court which seemed to be the difference. Despite a second double fault, she held the fourth game, ending the winning streak of her opponent. Good court positioning and firm response from Goerges earned her another win to sit a game back after five. Bouchard called out her coach who told her to hang through the conditions and assuring her that she is doing well.
It was apparent that playing behind the covered part of the arena was the best to succeed with the wind still breezing on the court. The defending champion made adjustments to secure the sixth consolidating the previous game before hunting down another break. Bouchard denied her that chance in the seventh keeping herself in the lead. It was only for the moment as the German leveled to four all making every point crucial going forward.
They went to deuce in the ninth when a huge mistake from Goerges gave Bouchard the win on a ball landing long of the baseline. It was up to the 30-year-old to survive the match and the Canadian to force her into danger. The wind got faster putting the number two seed in trouble at times but took her time to record her 40th winner of the match. She put the match at five-all sending Bouchard left and right during the rally before a final return didn’t stay in for the 24-year-old.
She made the final move of holding serve putting Goerges back in the hot seat to force a tiebreak. Goerges had Bouchard on the ropes in the opening rally but an overhand shot that she thought was going across instead went into the net. Bouchard nailed a crosscourt winner for 30-15 until Goerges notched her seventh ace. An eighth soon followed up but another error from the champ went into the net forcing deuce. A bad return gave Bouchard match point but a terrific crosscourt from Goerges brought it back to deuce.
They ended up in a tiebreak after the second deuce leaving nothing left but to win or lose. Goerges once again showed her strengths but couldn’t get far from Bouchard who restored a minibreak to sit at three all. The margin of a point separated the two players even as Goerges had match point. Bouchard avoided two of them to make it six points each with two needed to win the competition. In the end, it was Goerges who got the win on a hard-fought winner to conclude 2 hours and 28 minutes.
Both finished with a first serve over 70 percent indicating how hard the players fought. Despite the loss, Bouchard had more than 40 winners to her name letting her fans and the tennis world know that she was eager to compete at her current level. While she prepares for more of the Australian Open Series, the 2018 champion will go up against Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia in the semifinals.Published 04 Jan 2019, 09:53 IST