In Fort Worth (Texas), the cradle of rodeos well known to nostalgic westerners, Caroline Garcia has made her law reign. On the night of Monday 7 to Tuesday 8 November, the Lyonnaise (6me world) won the most important title of her career by winning the WTA Masters, the last tournament of the season that brings together the eight best players in the world.
In the final she dominated the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka (7me world) in two sets (7-6 [7-4]6-4), et 1 h 41 jeu. Caroline Garcia became, at 29 years old, the deuxième Française à être couronnée dans cette épreuve, dix-sept ans après la victoire d’Amélie Mauresmo aux dépens de… sa compatriote Mary Pierce, in Los Angeles.
“I thank my team, and all the people with whom I have reached this trophy, since I was 12 years old”the Frenchwoman said after the match, just after raising the cup.
This title, the 11me of her singles career, completes a season in the form of a renaissance for Garcia after more than four years of soul waves. Between struggling tennis, a crisis of confidence and recurrent physical problems (foot, back…), the right-hander had fallen to 74me world place at the end of 2021. On Monday he will aim for 4me rank, matching his best ranking, achieved in 2017.
That year, the Frenchwoman was first invited to the final banquet after a royal tour of China that had seen her win two titles in quick succession at the WTA 1000 tournaments (the category just below the Grand Slams) in Wuhan and Beijing. But, during the Singapore Masters, she had failed in the semifinals, then beaten by American Venus Williams. Having decided the WTA (the body that manages the women’s circuit) to turn its back on China in the context of the Peng Shuai case, but also of the sanitary restrictions in the country, the event has been relocated since last year.
A French tornado at the US Open
As in 2017, Garcia won his ticket at the last minute to the Texas matchup. The reward for an extravagant summer, which she began with a doubles title at Roland-Garros with compatriot Kristina Mladenovic. Between mid-June and mid-September, Lyonnaise compiled 31 individual successes in 36 matches, with three trophies lifted on three different surfaces, in Bad Homburg (Germany) on grass, Warsaw on clay, surpassing the world number of the Polish iga. Swiatek at home, and in Cincinnati (Ohio) on hard. An American tour concluded with a first Grand Slam semifinal, at the US Open, in early September.
For ten days, the right-hander with an explosive game had left the entire Flushing Meadows tennis court in a physical and mental cloud. Before seeing how the pressure reached her one step away from the final, swept away by the Tunisian Ons Jabeur. But the attitude was promising, according to former World No. 1 Justine Hénin. “Today she is a player who is in her place, highly concentrated, said the Belgian at the time World. You can tell that she is confident in being there, whereas, in recent years, we felt like she was lost on the ground. This return to the highest starts above all from a realization and from this confidence, recovered or finally acquired. »
Today, Caroline Garcia seems to finally give the full measure of her athletic qualities, long detected by the keenest eyes on the circuit. In 2011, in the wake of a Roland-Garros second-round loss to former Russian boss Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray and former player Martina Navratilova promised the 17-year-old the world No. 1 costume. Expectations too high to bear: Between 2018 and 2021, she will only win two titles.
“It was difficult because people expected a lot from me. I walked around 150me200me world place, I was 17 years old and my game was not ready. I couldn’t play consistently at that kind of level.” he explained at the last US Open.
A return to the highest level that is largely due to Bertrand Perret, former coach, among others, of the Chinese Peng Shuai and Ons Jabeur, called to the rescue in December 2021. The sign of a desire for late emancipation. Tennis, until now, was a family affair: García had developed his entire career under the orders of his father, Louis-Paul. A relationship often commented on, even criticized. Away from court at the request of his daughter in May 2021, the father, a few months later, had rejoined the clan, from a distance, in a managerial role.
Surprise departure of his coach on the eve of the tournament
But the idyllic beginnings of this new arrangement have apparently given way to misunderstandings. García arrived in Texas in the midst of a roundup of uncertainties: three days before the start of the Masters, Bertrand Perret formalized the end of their collaboration for non-sporting reasons. “In recent weeks there have been problems. They ended up spoiling the atmosphere and I preferred to stop”, entrusted laconically on October 28 to The team.
Upon his return from New York, his protégé had experienced a phase of decompensation: six difficult weeks and a single victory in three tournaments. Suffice it to say that García did not face the last match of the year in the best conditions. “The preparation was not ideal”, she conceded before the start of the competition.
In Fort Worth, where she was accompanied by her father and Argentine coach Juan Pablo Guzmán, who had already worked with her last year, she was able to chase away bad thoughts. After a strong start against American Coco Gauff in her first pool match, the Frenchwoman was soundly defeated by Iga Swiatek. But to everyone’s surprise, the Pole was eliminated in the semifinals by Sabalenka. In the same stage, García made an almost perfect copy against the Greek María Sakkari (5me world), without showing signs of fatigue despite a battle of almost 2:30 the day before, to take out the Russian Daria Kasatkina.
In Texas, as in New York during the US Open, the young woman showed a permanent desire to hurt her opponent from the first strokes of the racket. This aggressive game, resolutely carried on, “That’s always been my mindset, she told Parisian on the eve of his entry into the Masters. We could see that it did a lot of damage to the players in front. It is a game that has brought me a lot of success.
Maximum risk taking, which generates some waste, but above all a package of winning moves when there is confidence. Added to that is a ruthless serve: 394 aces in a row this year (including eleven in the final of the day), a stat that has earned her the position of best shooter on the women’s circuit this season.
Caroline Garcia leaves Texas crowned with a new status: calling her the new sheriff of these ladies.
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