WHAT HAPPENED: No.11 seed Flavia Pennetta played the type of solid, counter-attacking tennis that landed her a spot in last year’s US Open semifinals,to stave off a concerted opening round upset attempt by German Julia Goerges, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, on a steamy Court 5 on the second day of the US Open on Tuesday. Goerges proved to be a dangerous and difficult opponent for the Italian,playing a much closer match than the final score line would indicate.
Goerges, 25, who advanced to the third round of the 2011 US Open, her best result to date, has long been considered a rising star on the tour. Her shot making was brilliant at times, drilling deep and powerful winners off both sides from the baseline. But playing against a human backboard like Pennetta required more patience, and Goerges made 43 unforced errors, 21 of those coming in the first set. Throughout the match, Pennetta was willing and clearly able to hit the extra ball, making six errors in the opening set and only 16 for the match. Goerges had the first set knotted 3-3, but Pennetta skillfully handled the German’s pace and depth, winning three consecutive games. She secured the set 6-3, the final point punctuated by a sweet drop shot off her backhand.
Despite playing in near 90 degree weather, one of the warmest afternoon’s in New York this summer, Goerges played even more aggressively in the second set. She mixed up her powerful baseline game, though, sprinkling in a dozen successful forays to net, converting on 80 percent of her chances. She broke Pennetta to start the second set – a definite momentum changer – and kept the offensive pressure on in surging to a 4-2 lead. Pennetta was able to close within 4-3 and hold serve at 5-4, but she drove a backhand long in the tenth game to send the match to a decisive third set.
In the final stanza, the 32-year-old Italian showed why she’s a poised veteran capable of making another deep US Open run. She opened by holding her serve – swinging momentum back in her favor – broke Goerges, and continued to control play and dictate points. It was the most focused of the three sets Pennetta played. Though it was a tightly played third set, Pennetta’s match experience and No. 12 world ranking proved the difference.
WHAT IT MEANS: Pennetta who won the championship at Indian Wells in March, can breathe a sigh of relief after surviving an opening round slugfest that lasted just under two hours. While she trailed Georges 32-12 in winners, she played a steady, controlled match against an opponent whose groundstroke power wasn’t going to rattle her game plan. She next faces American Shelby Rogers, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over Maryna Zanevska.
THE QUESTION: Pennetta made only four trips to the net against Goerges, converting all four. Does she need to beef up her net game in order to advance back to another US Open semifinal?