Thursday, October 22, 2020

Julia Goerges, tennis's own wonder of German engineering, retires from the sport

Photo by Daniel Ward
Julia Goerges retired from professional tennis yesterday, after spending fifteen years on the tour. Goerges--though an accomplished player by any standard--will be most remembered for her sportswomanlike approach to every aspect of the game, an inspiring reconstruction of her career, and an unforgettable forehand.

The German star came on the scene in 2005, and during the course of her career, won seven singles titles-- including the 2017 WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, plus back-to-back titles in Auckland--and five doubles titles. She made 48 consecutive runs in majors, which included seven second-week performances.

In 2018, Goerges reached the Wimbledon semifinals, after knocking out Barbora Strycova, Donna Vekic and Kiki Bertens (in a match between close friends). Goerges and Nenad Zemojic were the runners-up in mixed doubles at the 2014 French Open, and Goerges reached three major semifinals--the 2015 Australian Open (with Anna-Lena Groenefeld), the 2016 Australian Open (with Karolina Pliskova) and the 2016 Wimbledon tournament (with Pliskova). 

Goerges was a regular member the German Fed Cup (now the Billie Jean King Cup) team for years. In 2017, she won the Fed Cup Heart Award.

Photos by Daniel Ward
In 2018, the German star replaced her doubles partner, Karolina Pliskova, as the WTA Ace Queen, hitting a stunning 492 aces. During that season, she also led the tour in both first serve points won ((73.8%) and break points saved (63.5%). (In the era of match stats (since 2008), Goerges holds the number 3 ranking in hitting aces--2,931).

Photo by Daniel Ward

Pretty impressive. But it wasn't a lucky streak. By 2014, Goerges' game had suffered so much that she fell out of the top 100. She decided she had to change everything, so she hired a new coach and a new physio, and she even moved to a different part of Germany. The German player is very organized in every aspect of her life, and says that she likes to take as much responsibility for her life as possible (which includes doing her own taxes--she also really likes numbers).

I remember, a couple of years ago in Charleston, Goerges said: “...the match starts with yourself, and that’s what I can control.” 

After Goerges did her famous "restart" of her game, she rose to prominence. One thing she didn't have to restart was her heavy-spinning forehand, which has been her shot of choice throughout her career. In 2018, Goerges reached a career-high singles ranking of number 9 in the world. 

In announcing her retirement, the 31-year-old Georges wrote: 

"When I started playing tennis at the age of five, I would never have thought that we would go such a long way together.

"You have given me so many different types of emotions throughout our journey and I am very thankful for everything you have shown and taught me. I learnt how to deal with the toughest losses but also enjoy the most amazing wins of my career, to fight back many times when I was struggling with you and through it all we never lost sight of our dreams.

"I always knew how I would feel when it is time to say goodbye to you, and that moment has arrived. I am ready to close the tennis chapter of my life and open a new one, which I am really excited about.

"Thank you for everything you have given me. You will stay forever in my heart."

Saying goodbye to beloved players is something that all tennis fans have a lot of experience doing, but it never gets easier. It is especially difficult to say goodbye to someone who brought us so many thrills, gave us such elegant performances, showed us how to start over, and set such a notable example of how to relate to others.

(And finally...."Nein!")

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