After beating Caroline Wozniacki in the Dubai semifinals, Julia Goerges said that, yes, of course, her previous wins against Wozniacki gave her confidence. “On her I can see that she doesn’t really like my game,” said Goerges. “That’s pretty important for me to see.” Perhaps that was the challenge for Goerges today. She couldn’t see anything on Agnieszka Radwanska’s on-court face. Who can? If anything it was the other way around, considering Radwanska “killed” Goerges at the Australian Open (as Goerges put it yesterday).
It wasn’t as easy today, but world No. 6 Radwanska again beat No. 19 Goerges—“the thinker” and “the power merchant,” as TennisTV commentators called them—in a close but up-and-down match that lasted 104 minutes and ended 7-5, 6-4.
Radwanska, already playing on a career-high ranking, will overtake Sam Stosur to break into the Top 5 come Monday. It’s good news for Radwanska and, considering 24-year-old Maria Sharapova will be the oldest player in the Top 5, it’s further proof that the new guard is here.
Goerges dominated much of the middle of the first set, but the beginning and—most importantly—the end went Radwanska’s way. But despite that middle, filled with the expected forehand blasts from Goerges, you suspected from the get-go that things might eventually work out for Radwanska. How could you not, when Goerges’s specialties are her serve and forehand, but it’s Radwanska who started with a break after a forehand winner? (From a semi-defensive position, naturally.) Then in the next game Radwanska held—with an ace on match point.
Goerges looked great starting around 2-4. She shook off the nerves, pulled out the big serves and more first serves, and started swinging away in her effortless way. By 4-4, TennisTV commentators felt this was turning into the final we hoped for, between players with such contrasting styles. The challenge for big hitters like Goerges, or Petra Kvitova, is to maintain their concentration and that level. Today Goerges couldn’t.
In the first set that was most evident at 5-5. The longest game of the match, it went to five deuces and lasted more than seven minutes. Goerges played well, until she didn’t. She ended the game with two sloppy errors to give Radwanska the break. Then she made four errors in the next game, allowing Radwanska to easily serve out the set.
The first set felt as close as the score, the second set not so much. Finally on Radwanska’s second match point, Goerges hit a backhand return just long, and it was over.
It wasn’t all about Goerges. Radwanska knows how to force errors, but she can hit winners too. In this final she hit 17 winners against 12 errors. She lacks power but moves efficiently, hits balls deep, constructs points well, and keeps her cool. “She just doesn’t look like she plays the scoreline—she just plays each point on its merits like that’s not her business,” said a commentator, and that composure especially helps against players like Goerges, who can hit a whopping 43 winners, like she did today, but also 54 errors, like she also did today.
After the match, Radwanska said Goerges’ “bombs” were “very dangerous.” She said she was just trying to “focus and stay calm and just fight to the end.” We may be seeing a slightly different side of Radwanska off court these days, but on court she's always been this way. And her new ranking suggests that it works, and that you don't need bombs to win.