On paper, 13th seed Julia Goerges might appear to be the favourite to beat the 25th seed Serena Williams in their semifinal on Thursday. The reality, however, is very different. Goerges is playing some good tennis, but few would back her against the 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams. Particularly because this is Goerges' first ever Grand Slam semifinal. But will the German manage to pull off an almighty upset or will Williams prove too strong?
Williams and Goerges played twice in 2010 and 2011 and Williams won twice. The first win was in the second round at the French Open, where Williams breezed through with a 6-1 6-1 win, while in Toronto a year later she again won, this time 6-1 7-6. Following that they had a seven-year hiatus between matches, before renewing their rivalry in Paris this year. There at Roland Garros in the third round, Williams again won, 6-3 6-4.
Path to the semifinal
Williams’ first two rounds were relatively easy as she defeated first Arantxa Rus and then Viktoriya Tomova in straight sets. However, she found herself faced with a rather more significant challenge when she took on Kristina Mladenovic of France, but still escaped with a straight sets 7-5 7-6 win. She breezed past Evgeniya Rodina in the fourth round, before losing her first set of the tournament in a 3-6 6-3 6-4 quarterfinal win over Camila Giorgi.
Goerges’ start to the tournament was much more difficult. Her first round win was a closely contested 6-4 7-6 win over Monica Puig, before she battled to back-to-back three-set wins over Vera Lapko and Barbora Strycova, the latter of which went to 10-8 in the third set. She followed that up with an easy 6-3 6-2 win over Donna Vekic, before coming back from a set down against the in-form Kiki Bertens to win her quarterfinal 3-6 7-5 6-1.
How do they match up?
Goerges doesn’t necessarily excel in any part of her game, though her forehand is deceptively powerful. Her serve can also be a big weapon for her although she can also find herself hitting too many doubles faults. But the real root of her success is her accurate and consistent hitting from the baseline, backed up by her good movement. That marks a stark contrast compared with the incredible power and precision of one of the greatest players of all time.
Williams will have a huge advantage both on serve and during extended rallies. Goerges serve is relatively inconsistent, and to have a chance against Williams she will need to be putting her first serve in good areas a high percentage of the time. The German will also need to spread the court well from her forehand and keep the ball deep to prevent Williams from getting on to the front foot. But Giorgi's battling three-set loss did show Williams is not infallible.
Goerges has gotten better as this tournament has progressed, recovering from a shaky start to post some impressive victories in the past couple of rounds and reaching her first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal and semifinals is a fine achievement. Williams isn’t playing at her best, but even at 80% she is one of the best players in the world. As a result, she should be able to get the job done to give herself a chance at an eighth Wimbledon title, winning this one in two tight sets.