By Tumaini Carayol
(April 25, 2013) STUTTGART – Julia Goerges and Petra Kvitova put on a three-set exhibition of power in Stuttgart on Thursday at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
As expected, the battle between the two ball crushers was fought on the front line. Both women attempted to wrestle the initiative from the other, but early on it was surprisingly Goerges who easily assumed control of the match. Five games in, the home favorite found herself cruising up 6-2, 1-0 with a set and a break. Her serve provided her with free points and the opportunity to finish numerous points by her second shot, but it was her return that mostly impressed early on.
Once upon a time, it was Vera Zvonareva who exhibited exactly how to return the Czech’s hefty serve. The Russian notched up an impressive record over Kvitova by using her footwork to step in and intercept Kvitova’s trademark lefty swinger, neutralizing one of the best serves in women’s tennis.
Goerges’ movement around the ball was uncharacteristically precise and it afforded her the same freedom on return. The difference was, unlike Zvonareva who simply attempted to neutralize the effects of the Kvitova serve, Goerges attacked both first and second deliveries indiscriminately, either crushing clean return winners or else winning the initiative immediately with deep, penetrative returns which allowed her to put the ball away within two or three shots.
Essentially, during the early stages of the match, the German was the overwhelming victor of the “first strike” battle as she triumphed both on service and return – quite literally the first strike of every point. In no time at all, the set and break lead was hers.
After the turbulent last eighteen months, it’s easy to forget the mental strength Kvitova showed during the brief time she was hyped as the best of her generation. It was this mental strength that she drew on as she willed her game together and began to mount her comeback.
First she addressed the ease at which Goerges had dealt with her serve, implementing more variety in her delivery which relinquished Goerges’ grip on her serve. She then surprisingly began to attack with higher percentage, planning the majority of her offense either cross-court or straight down the middle, utilizing brash angles. The result was immediate. After breaking straight back, a series of quick and easy holds for Kvitova followed as Goerges service games lengthened and were subjected to immense ‘scrutiny. In reality, the Czech No. 1 should have leveled the match under far more straightforward surfaces, but when Goerges double faulted at 4-5 in the tiebreaker to hand over two set points, nobody was surprised.
From then onwards, Kvitova fell into cruise control as she shackles on her game were unbound. Big serves flowed into raucous winners, and before long the final ball had been struck and the match had been won 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-2. A quietly confidence-boosting win for Kvitova, as she continues her struggle to regain her form of old.
Tumaini Carayol is in Stuttgart covering the Stuttgart tournament for Tennis Panorama News. He is a contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault.