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Goerges vs Mertens tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Goerges’s WTA Zhuhai title defense hanging by a thread

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 31 Oct 2018
  • Julia Goerges faces Elise Mertens at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai on Thursday
  • Goerges vs Mertens is live from Zhuhai on Thursday at 4.30pm local/8.30am GMT
Julia Goerges (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)

Defending champion Julia Goerges tries to get off the mark in Zhuhai as she takes on Elise Mertens at the WTA Elite Trophy.

After suffering defeat in her opening match, Julia Goerges is on the brink of elimination as the defending champion heads into Thursday’s clash with Elise Mertens at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai.

With the 12 players in the field at the second-tier season-ending championships divided into four groups of three, there is little margin for error in this round-robin format – losing three sets almost always leads to elimination.

Goerges shows her frustration as she plays against Kontaveit (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)
With all three players in the Rose Group having played at least one match, last year’s champion Goerges is still in with a chance of repeating her 2017 feat of ending the season with back-to-back titles. In 2017, it was the Kremlin Cup in Moscow and then Zhuhai, where she beat Anastasija Sevastova and Coco Vandeweghe in the semifinals and final; in 2018, she has already captured her second title of the season in Luxembourg, but her hopes of reaching the elimination stages at the WTA Elite Trophy are already looking a bit dicey after suffering a 2-6, 6-4, 4-6 defeat to Anett Kontaveit.

Goerges, who fell and hurt herself during the second set but seemed to be all right to continue, found herself on the wrong end of a three-set defeat to the powerful young Estonian, who recently reached the biggest final of her career in Wuhan – and after Kontaveit’s defeat to Elise Mertens, the German also finds herself in a perilous position heading into Thursday’s clash with the Belgian.

It would be an underwhelming end to what has been a very good year for Goerges if she failed to make the semifinals in Zhuhai – but the margins are so thin in this round-robin format, and the field so good this year, that there certainly would be no shame in it. The German veteran can console herself with a number of career milestones in 2018, including a first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, her titles in Luxembourg and Auckland and a runner-up finish to Kiki Bertens at the Premier-level Volvo Car Open n Charleston, as well as with breaking into the top 10 for the first time, recording a new career-high ranking of world no. 9 as reward for a career-best season.

Nevertheless Goerges will not want to relinquish the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai title without a fight.

Elise Mertens, the fourth seed in Zhuhai, currently tops the Rose Group after beating Kontaveit 6-3, 6-1 in her opening match – a result and scoreline that surprised me. Not because Mertens isn’t an excellent player – she is guaranteed to be Belgium’s first woman to finish inside the top 20 since Kirsten Flipkens in 2013 – and not because she hasn’t had an excellent season, which she has: Compiling a 46-20 win-loss record, successfully defending her Hobart title and adding two more International wins in Lugano and Rabat, and reaching a first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open in January. 

Elise Mertens  (Photo by Zhe Ji/Getty Images)
Mertens also reached the semifinals of San Jose, the quarterfinals of Montreal and Cincinnati, the round of 16 at both the French Open and the US Open, and the third round of Wimbledon, so it really has been a tremendous season for the 22-year-old – one which has seen her ranking rise from world no. 36 to its current world no. 13. 

But there have been distinct signs recently, and it would be totally understandable, that Mertens has been running out of steam a bit. Since the US Open, she has gone 2-4 coming into Zhuhai, making the quarterfinals of the International-level Tianjin Open but losing her opening match at bigger events in Wuhan, Beijing and Moscow, to unseeded players ranked outside of the top 30 on all three occasions.

I thought perhaps Mertens wouldn’t have the energy left to make a big impact in Zhuhai – but she certainly proved me wrong in the just over an hour she took to oust Kontaveit.

‘I think at the start, it was a very tight match for both players, a lot of 40-alls in the games,’ Mertens said afterwards. 

‘I think [the key was] a lot of variety, the spin ball, the slice, because she likes to hit flat and really hard. Also to get that one more ball back in the court, I think that made a difference a little bit.’

This will be the first match between Goerges and Mertens, and a strong serving performance from Goerges could be key. If the German can land plenty of her trademark big serves, then she can play short, quick points to keep Mertens from dragging her into long rallies and using her variety to disrupt Goerges’s rhythm. Mertens is a multi-skilled player, though, and she has plenty of ways to be aggressive even if she can’t match Goerges’s explosiveness off the forehand.

‘It's going to be an interesting match for sure. She's defending champion. She feels pretty well here on the court. The court fits to her,’ Mertens said.

‘But I've got nothing to lose. I don't have any points to defend or anything. I'll just play freely. I've had a good year and she's had a good year. Hopefully it will be a real competitive match.’

Goerges vs Mertens WTA Elite Trophy round-robin tennis is live from Zhuhai on Thursday at 4.30pm local/8.30am GMT

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Goerges vs Mertens tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Goerges’s WTA Zhuhai title defense hanging by a thread

Julia Goerges vs Elise Mertens live streaming, preview and predictions for the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai round-robin match on Thursday 1 November: Defending champion Goerges faces uphill battle against group-leading Mertens

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