Goerges Halts Kasatkina’s Title Defense, Keys Survives Pera Scare

For Julia Goerges, the fifth time is the charm.

Making her fifth appearance at the Volvo Car Open, the 29-year-old German advanced to the semifinals in Charleston for the first tim in her career. Friday afternoon she ended the eight-match winning streak of defending champion Daria Kasatkina here, winning 6-4, 6-3 to book a spot in the final four.

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It’s there she’ll meet No. 8 seed Anastasija Sevastova for a chance at the final – what would be her fourth in six months.

After Goerges’ early-afternoon win on Friday, Madison Keys of the U.S. locked in her place in the final four for the first time in three years, coming back from a 2-4 deficit in the third set against little-known American Bernarda Pera, in the end prevailing 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 in two hours and 14 minutes.

Keys was a finalist here in 2015, losing then to Angelique Kerber. She had not won a match in Charleston over the last two years prior to her run this week.

It’s there that she’ll meet No. 12 seed Kiki Bertens, who was a 6-2, 7-5 winner over Alize Cornet on Friday night. Bertens has won her only previous meeting with Keys in a fourth-round encounter at the French Open two years ago.

The Latvian Sevastova played the final singles match of the day session and appeared to have an early dinner reservation. She dispatched Kristyna Pliskova in just 59 minutes, 6-4, 6-0.

Sevastova is playing here for the fourth time, having been stopped in the quarterfinals a year ago by Laura Siegemund, marking her previous best result in Charleston. Should she win Saturday she’ll make just her fifth career final on the WTA.

But Goerges, the No. 5 seed this week, has had a sixth-month span to remember: She won back-to-back titles in Moscow and Zhuhai to finish 2017, then opened this season with a another title in Auckland, helping her make her top 10 debut in her 12th full season on tour. She has a 16-5 record this season.

“I’m having a good time,” Goerges said about her run in Charleston. “It’s a great city. It’s a great atmosphere, great spectators here. And just in general they are doing a terrific job, and I think all the players are very welcome and that’s how I’m feeling, too.”

Goerges is feeling good about her tennis, as well, after a three-set scare against American Kristie Ahn to start the tournament. She beat a red hot Naomi Osaka in the third round on Thursday in straight sets.

It’s the fifth consecutive year a German player has made the semifinals here, following runs by Andrea Petkovic (2014), Angelique Kerber (2015 and 2016) and Siegemund last year.

Keys had to rally in her match, Pera playing a hard-hitting game from the baseline with her lefty spin. The New Jersey resident has had a year to remember, making a run to the Australian Open third round in January, beating Johanna Konta. She’ll make her top 100 debut next week.

But after failing to convert on two match points in the second set, Keys had a coaching visit from Lindsay Davenport who told her little tactically and more wanted her charge to show that she was motivated to win the match.

Keys did just that, and the win puts her into a semifinal on tour for the first time since the US Open last September.

Kasatkina became a Charleston favorite herself by winning the title last year, her first at the age 19. She said Friday’s loss made her “really upset,” but she was happy she went through the experience of being a defending champ for the first time in Charleston.

“I’m learning how to deal with this [kind of] pressure,” she told reporters. “I like the atmosphere in Charleston, the people, the food, the organization… everything is so awesome. I’m excited to come [back] here every year.”