Commentary

Here come the German girls

Updated: April 27, 2011, 5:35 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

The good old days of German tennis are just that -- old.

When Steffi Graf and Boris Becker bid adieu in 1999, out went a combined 28 Grand Slam titles. Michael Stich wasn't shabby in a supporting role, downing Becker in the 1991 Wimbledon final before a shoulder injury prematurely ended his career.

The next generation of prospects, which included Tommy Haas, Nicolas Kiefer and Anke Huber, inevitably drew comparisons, and predictably, given the standard set by the trio, fell short. Haas could portray the Bionic Man following numerous body reconstructions.

But German tennis is again on a high -- relatively speaking -- led by the women. Julia Goerges triumphed at home in Stuttgart last weekend by hitting through world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

The quirky Andrea Petkovic isn't far removed from beating the Dane in Miami, and Sabine Lisicki, who might possess the most potent game of the triumvirate, made strides as she rebounds from seemingly never-ending ankle problems, reaching the quarterfinals in Stuttgart and winning the doubles title with Samantha Stosur.

All of which was great news for Patrik Kuhnen, part of Germany's tennis federation as the Davis Cup captain and tournament director at this week's men's BMW Open in Munich.

"For women's tennis in Germany it's great, but, of course, this has a great impact on tennis in Germany overall," Kuhnen said by phone Tuesday, nearing the end of a busy day. "There was quite a stir here over the weekend. The men's players were asking, 'What's the score in Stuttgart? What's happening?' Julia greatly improved, and Andrea has played great tennis in the last few weeks."

The victory by Goerges, dubbed "Gorgeous Goerges," was by no means a fluke, although she did benefit from Victoria Azarenka's retirement in the second round.

The hard-hitting 22-year-old had Wozniacki on the ropes, in Denmark no less, last summer, faltering as she tried to serve out the match. More experienced, and this time with the crowd on her side, Goerges sizzled, crunching 39 winners, and didn't stumble at the finish line.

Even though the clay in Stuttgart was described as quick, the figure, especially against a formidable retriever such as Wozniacki, impressed. Goerges mixed up her serve and punished Wozniacki's second delivery.

"Against Caroline it feels like you always have a mountain to climb, and I did it," Goerges told the crowd in Stuttgart, right on both counts.

To get to the final, Goerges, now at a career-high 27th in the rankings, battled past Stosur, the rejuvenated French Open finalist.

"She just looked like a winner," said Jo Durie, an analyst for Eurosport and former world No. 5. "She looked like she knew what she was doing; she didn't panic, and she had a really good game plan. She really impressed me with the way she handled the final."

Last year's clay-court season produced two surprising winners at Premier level, the unorthodox Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in Rome and the all-guns-blazing Aravane Rezai in Madrid. They didn't do much when the pressure was on at the French Open, losing in the first week.

Durie suspects things might be different with Goerges.

"She's on a bit of a roll," she said. "She's reached semis and quarters and is starting to have big wins. It's going one way at the moment, and I think she'll break the top 20. To get into the top 10 will be difficult, but I think on clay she'll keep it going for a while."

Petkovic, above Goerges in the rankings, lacks her firepower but doesn't have many weaknesses. As Durie pointed out, she appears to get the most out of her metronomical game. Apart from dispatching Wozniacki, Petkovic led Germany past the U.S. in the Fed Cup world group playoffs this month.

Looking to improve further, Petkovic will now work part time with Graf's former coach, Heinz Gunthardt, who cut ties with Ana Ivanovic at the end of 2010.

Petkovic is already a popular figure, thanks to her colorful personality. Sadly for many fans, the "Petko Dance" is no longer.

"I was talking to [Fed Cup captain] Barbara Rittner, and she told me it was pretty crazy during the Fed Cup," Kuhnen said. "Andrea had so many requests from the media, which was new and had a great impact. She could hardly do them all. So many journalists have come to me and say, 'Hey, the women are doing great, now the men have to deliver.'"

They delivered early in Munich, albeit modestly.

The dreadlocked Dustin Brown, with a hefty following but not a classic clay-court game, engineered a massive upset Tuesday by taking out second-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka.

"The court was packed like you couldn't believe," Kuhnen said. "People were almost climbing the trees to watch."

And Haas, sidelined for more than a year after hip and elbow surgery, returned to the circuit, a victory in itself.

If only enigmas Philipp Kohlschreiber and Philipp Petzschner, who is armed with a new coach, could blossom. That, however, is a subject for another day.

For the time being, the Germans are enjoying the upturn and hoping it lasts.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.