Qualifier Laura Siegemund’s stunning run in Stuttgart continued on Friday, as she dismantled Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-4 to advance into the first WTA semifinal of her career. Siegemund’s personal breakthrough isn’t the only story behind her giant-killing run in Stuttgart, however — she’s ensured that one of the tournament’s most endearing streaks will continue. Since 2000, at least one unseeded player has featured in the semifinals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix a total of 13 times. Victoria Chiesa looks back at some of the recent best.
2010: Anna Lapushchenkova (RUS)
The original surprise package in Stuttgart, you’d be hard pressed to find a more enigmatic WTA player this decade. In 2010, Lapushchenkova — a 23-year-old from Moscow who won a main draw match just twice in her career until arriving at the Porsche Arena — put together one of the most baffling runs in not only Stuttgart’s history, but in the WTA’s recent memory.
Lapushchenkova, then ranked World No. 138, first came through the qualifying with the loss of just one set — and she nearly found herself booted out the tournament in the opening qualifying round as she trailed Vrljic by a set before turning the match around. From there, she went on a tear in the main draw — defeating Olga Govortsova for her first Top 50 win, before stunning Govortsova’s compatriot Victoria Azarenka for her first Top 10 scalp.
The lanky Russian’s booming groundstrokes were all the more effective on indoor courts, and her run continued with a topsy-turvy win over Lucie Safarova in the quarterfinals.
Lapushchenkova’s fairytale run came to an end at the hands of Samantha Stosur in the quarterfinals — but not before she broke out to a 5-2 lead in the opening set, and also led by a break in the second set.
After sneaking inside the Top 100 following her Stuttgart breakthrough, Lapushchenkova naturally went on a five-match losing streak until July — before she won a $50,000 ITF event in Kazan, Russia in August (and defeated Lesia Tsurenko and Vitalia Diatchenko in the semifinals and final, respectively.) She was then off the tour until October, returning only to lose to Diatchenko in Moscow — before then effectively disappearing from tennis altogether. No official reason was ever given for her retirement — unless you choose to believe the rumors that she never really cared for the sport anyway. (And when you interview like this after winning your biggest career title, well….)
Lapushchenkova was one of the biggest cases of ‘what could’ve been,’ and over the course of her career, she compiled a 7-16 record in WTA main draws — which means that nearly half of her overall wins came in one magical week. #neverforget
2011: Julia Goerges (GER)
While Julia Goerges isn’t the most recent unseeded champion of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, as her countrywoman Angelique Kerber eclipsed her last year, she was certainly the most surprising — if only because her tournament began with an incredible slice of luck.
The big-hitting German’s talent was evident in 2010, as she had her first Top 50 season, and she continued her rise up the rankings in 2011. When she arrived in Stuttgart, however, she likely wasn’t looking all that far past No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka in the second round — as she was 1-9 in her career against the world’s Top 10.
After claiming the first set, however, Azarenka was forced to retire due to an injury — which booked Goerges a place in the quarterfinals. While no one could’ve predicted how the rest of her match vs. Azarenka would’ve gone, the two players have met five times since that fateful day in Stuttgart, and the Belarusian is 10-0 in sets.
Paying her luck no mind, Goerges continued her march through the draw, defeating compatriot Sabine Lisicki in the quarterfinals in straight sets, before edging Samantha Stosur in a titanic semifinal clash in which she became the first German woman in 15 years to reach the final.
Goerges’ Cinderella week on home soil culminated with her first career win over a World No. 1, as she blasted past Caroline Wozniacki on Stuttgart’s Centre Court on Easter Sunday, 7-6(3), 6-3.
While Goerges has since struggled to replicate her career-defining performances from this week, her pure joy and elation at delivering for her home fans is a moment WTA fans won’t forget.
2013: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands is often full of surprises — typically in her on-court sartorial choices — but nothing could’ve prepared her for the magical run she put together in her first appearance on Stuttgart soil in 2013. Mattek-Sands hadn’t played the tournament since it moved to the Porsche Arena in 2006; her first — and only — appearance at the event to this point came in 2005, when it was still held in Filderstadt.
After an injury-plagued 2012 that saw her end the year ranked No. 173, the American was in the midst of one of her many career rebuilds in 2013 — ranked No. 197, she made the final in Kuala Lumpur in February, losing to a not-yet-risen Karolina Pliskova. In Stuttgart, and looking to return to the Top 100 at No. 104, she started out by breaking a pair of German hearts in the qualifying, with a three-set tussle vs. Maryna Zanevska sandwiched in the middle to make the main draw. From there, she went off, beginning with a dominant win over Yanina Wickmayer in the opening round.
Her run of good form didn’t stop there, as she took out Sara Errani handily in the first and third sets for the perennially fabulous 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 scoreline, before recording her third German scalp of the week over Sabine Lisicki. While her run came to an end at the hands of Li Na in the semifinals, Mattek-Sands had the last laugh against Li — she defeated her less than a month later en route to the second week at Roland Garros.
Mattek-Sands success in Stuttgart wasn’t confined to the singles court in 2013 either — as she and Sania Mirza reached the final before losing to Lisicki and Mona Barthel. In three appearances in doubles, she’s never lost before the final — as she and Nadia Petrova won the event in 2009, and she won it again with Lucie Safarova in 2015.
2015: Madison Brengle (USA)
Like her compatriot Mattek-Sands three years earlier, Brengle also dispelled the notion that most Americans are hapless on the European red stuff in the midst of her career season in 2015. Unlike Mattek-Sands, however, Brengle’s path to the semifinals didn’t include the qualifying draw — but also included a pair of impressive take downs.
In just her third career match against a Top 10 player — and first on clay — Brengle faced No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova in the second round and stunned the Czech in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6(2), as her own brand of dogged defense withstood Kvitova’s offense.
After her big win, she spoke to TTI’s own René Denfeld:
“I tried to control as much of I could on my service games because when she was making her first serve, it was quite tricky and I had to play a bit of defense,” Brengle said after her shocking 6-3, 7-6(2) win. “So, I tried to control my service games and I felt like I did a good job of that — except for that 5-4 game [where she was broken after holding a 40-0 lead] — which can happen against a World No. 4. I tried to really calm down at the changeover, and I felt like I came out and served really well at 5-6 and I was very happy with how I served in the tiebreaker.”
Brengle’s run continued when she rallied from a set down in the quarterfinals against Caroline Garcia, before she fell to another unseeded player — albeit one with a champion’s pedigree — in eventual tournament-winner Kerber.
There you have it — not only is the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix perennially home to some of the best WTA matches of the year, but it’s also home to some of its best stories.
Who’s your favorite unsung heroine from Stuttgart? Sound off in the comments!