WIMBLEDON -- Three years ago, German tennis player Julia Goerges, then 26, made a difficult, emotionally challenging decision. After seven fruitful years with the same support team -- a group that had helped lift her to a career-high ranking of No. 18 and guided her to the prestigious Stuttgart title -- she decided to clean house, make a complete change.
"I went completely in a new way," Goerges said on Tuesday at Wimbledon. "I took a new physio, a new coach. I changed my residence. I [moved] from the north to the south of Germany, really to start everything from zero."
Tennis players, especially successful tennis players, are creatures of habit. But Goerges was willing to take a chance because something was gnawing at her. "I wanted to achieve more," she admitted. "I think I was under my potential, what I'm capable of doing. I think now the moment I'm living -- it just shows me that I was right, that I actually took a good decision."
The moment she's living is a WTA tennis pro's penultimate dream: a semifinal date on Thursday with Serena Williams on Centre Court.
Goerges locked down her place in that match with a firm win over another surprise quarterfinalist, the Netherlands' Kiki Bertens, whom Goerges ran to ground in just under two hours, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.
The two women are good friends, but Bertens offered no magic bullet for Goerges to carry into her upcoming trial by fire. "I think it's just, go out there and try to do the same as she did today," Bertens said. "Try to play aggressive, serve well, and go for her shots like what she did to me today."
No problem there; it has always been Goerges' basic game plan. And it isn't a bad one, as a like-minded Camila Giorgi demonstrated in extending Williams to three sets on Centre Court. Goerges, like Williams, Giorgi, and that other semifinalist, Jelena Ostapenko, is a ferocious ball striker. Going into the quarterfinals she led the tournament in aces, with 41, and added three more on what was a relatively poor -- for her -- serving day.
But Goerges survived, which is a tribute to all the other newfound grasscourt skills of the 5-foot-11 power server who hit a career high ranking of No. 10 in February.
This a lady who likes to dot her i's and cross her t's, who admits that she enjoys working with numbers because she likes things cut-and-dried, precise. She even enjoys doing her own taxes. So, aware of her limitations on grass (she lost in the first round at Wimbledon the past four years running), Goerges and her team recruited David Prinosil, a former ATP pro, to help her master the unfamiliar math of grass court tennis.
Serena rallies to advance to Wimbledon semis
Serena Williams loses the first set, but recovers to defeat Camila Giorgi and continue her quest for an eighth Wimbledon title.
"He explained me a few things, how I can be dangerous on a grass court," she said. "As well, that I have to accept certain balls, certain circumstances on that surface, which I didn't do the years before."
The first set featured just such an outcome. Both women hit a big ball through the early game. Goerges got some looks that she failed to capitalize on and paid a price. Her reluctance to pull the trigger allowed Bertens to get the best of her via a break in the eighth game. In the blink of an eye, the set was gone.
"I lost the set because I wasn't taking my chances," Goerges admitted. "But I managed to find a way somehow. I think this is the best example for the mentality I've changed."
While her tactics weren't terribly impressive, Goerges' determination was notable. Suffering no letdown, she broke Bertens in the second game to give herself some breathing room. Although she would give back that break, she kept up the pressure in the ensuing games, visibly wearing down her opponent with power and fitness.
"She started to play better, more aggressive (in the second set)," Bertens said. "Yeah, in the third there was not so much I could do any more."
That's what Goerges can do, and what Williams will have to take into account in her preparations. Goerges is a full five inches inches taller than Giorgi, she has longer arms and greater leverage, and her physio (Florian Zitzelsberger) has the 29-year-old in great shape.
As far as Williams' power goes -- she cracked seven aces in her own match -- Prinosil has Goerges well prepared for that, too, having told her:
"There will be some rallies where you cannot do something, but you still need to accept that these things are going to happen, maybe in some important moments as well. You just have to get through them."
Easier said than done.