The first round of the J&T Banka Prague Open will see a blockbuster match-up between Barbora Strycova and Julia Goerges, with the winner earning a place in the second round. It is a mouth-watering clash between both players with Strycova currently ranked in the Top 20 and Goerges being previously ranked at a career-high 15th position a few years back.
In what will be a tight battle between these two players, their head-to-head is currently tied at 4-4 with both players unable to get the better of each other. Their last meeting came at the Ladies Open Biel-Bienne, where an unfortunate injury forced the German to retire from the clash in the midst of the final set after leading by a set.
Barbora Strycova had a fair season thus far, progressing to the quarterfinals in three different tournaments this year. She started the year with a loss in the quarterfinals of the ASB Classic, falling to eventual champion Lauren Davis there in a tournament where her draw was manageable but she wasted the golden opportunity to win the title.
However, she bounced back perfectly when she beat three consecutive former Top 10 players in Ekaterina Makarova, Roberta Vinci, and Caroline Wozniacki to reach the semifinals at the Sydney International in which five Top 10 players participated in. In her only clay court tournament this year, Strycova entered the Stuttgart Open where the player field was very packed and full of quality players. She first defeated an American lucky-loser in Jennifer Brady but fell to eventual semifinalist Simona Halep in the second round to cap off a disappointing week.
Julia Goerges’ year has been eventful this year, but also inconsistent at the same time. Similar to Strycova, the German and Fed Cup hero made three quarterfinals this year and earned five Top 30 victories in the process. Starting the year at the same event as Strycova, the ASB Classic, Goerges earned some impressive victories as she upset sixth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening round before defeating Caroline Wozniacki after coming from 1-6, 0-3 down to triumph in three sets.
After some poor results and a knee injury, Goerges achieved good results in indoor hard court tournaments as she reached the quarterfinal in Biel-Bienne, retiring against Strycova due to an injury, and the semi-final in Budapest, losing to eventual champion Timea Babos. Achieving wins over seeds at both the BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open, she unexpectedly fell to Lauren Davis and Risa Ozaki respectively. Her only clay court matches this year came in Fed Cup, where she claimed an excellent victory over the red-hot Elina Svitolina and sealed the victory for Germany when she defeated Lesia Tsurenko, overcoming huge deficits in both matches.
Barbora Strycova plays a game full of variety, which is very useful on a clay court. Her slices in the middle of a baseline rally would prove to be helpful as it can help to mix up Goerges’ rhythm and help her to get on the offense. Her drop shots could be a lethal weapon too, as it can force the German to go forward to the net, which is beneficial to Strycova as she is stronger at the net than her opponent. For Strycova to have a higher chance of triumphing, the Czech must be solid at the baseline and buck up her serves, preventing them from being constantly attacked by Goerges’ powerful return.
Julia Goerges has to rely on her strong serve and powerful game to triumph here. The strong serves would allow the German to take the upper hand in her service games as Strycova could find it very difficult to return her serves. Goerges should also try to serve out wide from the deuce court, allowing herself to get on the offense since it would be difficult for Strycova to return those serves.
She also has to be very solid in her groundstrokes as she must try to dictate play around the court, moving Strycova all around. One thing Goerges must beware of is net play as Strycova would utilize many drop shots and slices, and the German must have to find a way to fend off those crafty shots. She should also target Strycova’s serves while on the return, trying to aim for the lines and forcing Strycova to get on the defense.