Serena Williams will look to continue her march towards what could be potentially the most startling and impressive of all her many triumphs when she takes on 11th seed Julia Goerges. For Williams, this is just the third tournament of the year, and her credentials as a champion will surely face a searching interrogation at the hands of the German. But will Williams shock another seed or will Goerges prove a step too far?
Williams and Goerges have met twice before, but not since 2011. In their first meeting, which came in 2010 at the French Open in the second round, it was all Williams who lost just two games in defeating Goerges, although the American would go on to lose to Stosur in the quarterfinals. When they met a year later in Canada at the Rogers Cup in the round of 32, Goerges put up more spirited resistance but was ultimately still well-beaten, losing 1-6 6-7.
Path to the third round
Williams began her French Open campaign with a tough opening assignment against Kristyna Pliskova, sister of top ten regular Karolina. It proved to be a good battle between the pair, with Williams just edging the Czech out of the first set, which seemed vital, and eventually winning 7-6 6-4. She then had to bounce back from dropping the first set to Ashleigh Barty of Australia, the seventeenth seed, but eventually prevailed 3-6 6-3 6-4 to reach the third round.
Goerges arguably faced an even tougher opponent in her first round match as she came up against former Grand Slam finalist and WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova. There was almost nothing to split the pair early on, with Goerges winning the first set and Cibulkova the second. But the German raised her game impressively in the decider to win through 6-4 5-7 6-0. She then snuck past Alison van Uytvanck 7-5 7-6 to set up her clash with Williams.
How do they match up?
Serena Williams was able to dominate the Tour for so long for the same reason that Rafael Nadal has had so much success on clay. Not only did the American move and defend as well as anyone, she also played some of the best attacking tennis. In essence, she was at least as good in almost every area of the game as everyone else and better than most. And unlike Nadal, she has been consistently able to do it on all surfaces.
But she will have her work cut against Goerges. The German does not move as well as Williams did at her best, but she possesses a similarly formidable attacking arsenal. She is a terrific server, and hit an impressive 17 aces in the first round against Cibulkova, although she did not manage to add to that tally against van Uytvanck. However, questions about Goerges’ mentality, who has never been beyond the fourth round of a Slam, do remain.
Goerges has the weapons to beat Williams, particularly with the former world #1 still working her way back to full match sharpness. But whether or not she has the belief to do so is a question that the German has never managed to convincingly answer and may again fail to do so this year. Williams has also been playing with increasing confidence and will have no doubts about her own ability to reach the fourth round. In the crucial moments that could prove the difference. Williams in three.