Failure is part of life and part of sport. There is no shame in failure itself, because one must fail before succeeding.
Recall Stan Wawrinka quoting Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Stan turned out more than okay — he will be in the International Tennis Hall of Fame one day.
Failure without the jump to success is not a shameful occurrence. Lots of people try, only a select few succeed. Moreover, “success” is a relative term for a tennis player who has managed to stay in main draws on tour for nearly a decade. That is no small thing. It is certainly “success” at a particular level.
Nevertheless, for all of her career earnings, Julia Goerges — now 29 years old — is running out of time and chances to take another evolutionary step in her career.
The German seemed to be on the verge of putting the pieces together, at long last. She made a deep run in Washington, D.C., at the Citi Open, losing a three-set final to Ekaterina Makarova. She made the quarterfinals in Cincinnati. She won Moscow, drilling Daria Kasatkina in a lopsided final. She won in Zhuhai to end her 2017. She started 2018 by beating eventual Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki in the Auckland final. After her first-round win at the Australian Open, she had won 15 straight matches. Seeded 12th, she had a great chance to at long last make her FIRST major quarterfinal. More on that shortly.
Goerges has long possessed world-class ballstriking ability, but stacking together wins and good form in big tournaments has eluded her. Before 2017, a 2011 Madrid semifinal was her only trip to the quarterfinals or better in a major or Premier Mandatory/Premier 5/former Tier I event.
Then came 2017, with the solid summer and excellent autumn finish — those good months of tennis spilled into the start of 2018, which featured the Auckland title and a Doha quarterfinal. There are signs that Goerges can still defeat the sands of time and make a bigger breakthrough while she has quality tennis left in her bones and marrow.
Yet, she cannot seem to get past the hump at the biggest events on tour.
Remember the 15-match win streak mentioned above? Goerges watched it die in the second round of the Australian Open. The player she lost to, Alize Cornet, is notorious for picking off good players and then losing to less talented players. What had to hurt more for Goerges, though, is that she had been 5-0 against Cornet going into that match. It is true that Goerges — after 15 wins in a row — was due for a bad day. To that extent, she deserves some leniency for her Australian Open. Also, the laws of averages caught up with her in a six-match head-to-head which now stands at 5-1 versus Cornet.
Yet, if Goerges deserved a pass for Australia — and it’s reasonable to think she did — what about the next two main events on tour in 2018, Indian Wells and Miami? Goerges won just one match in Indian Wells, none in Miami, despite being seeded at No. 12, just as she was in Melbourne.
One of the in-form players to start the 2018 WTA season very plainly carried expectations into Australia, Indian Wells and Miami… and couldn’t deliver the goods in any of those three tournaments. Given the barren nature of her resume in terms of significant quarterfinals, semifinals and beyond, there isn’t much left to be said about Goerges’s career.
She is the one who has to rewrite the story in the upcoming clay swing. She is the one who has to plant her feet on the red dirt and take a stand. She is the one who needs to turn pressure from an oppressive force into an uplifting one. On clay, where the slower bounce of the ball can enable big hitters to catch up to shots and get in position to crack winners, Goerges can create opportunities. She has to get out of her own way to do so.
Manageable opponents or not, Goerges’s quest to climb to a new level of achievement this spring and early summer depends on defeating one specific adversary: herself.