In Fort Worth (Texas), the cradle of rodeos, well known to nostalgic westerners, Caroline Garcia has been given her right to rule. The night between Monday 7 November and Tuesday 8 November, Lyonnaise (6e world) won the most important title of her career by winning the WTA Masters, the final tournament of the season, which brings together the eight best players in the world.
In the final, she dominated the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka (7e world) in two sets (7-6 [7-4]6-4), and 1 h 41. Caroline Garcia becomes, with her 29, the second Frenchwoman to be crowned in this event, seventeen years after Amélie Mauresmo’s victory at the expense of … her compatriot Mary Pierce , in Los Angeles.
“I thank my team and all the people with whom I have found my way to this trophy since I was 12”said the Frenchman after the meeting, just after raising the cup.
This title, the 11e of his singles career, completes a season of rebirth for Garcia after more than four years of soul waves. Between tennis in need, crisis of confidence and recurring physical problems (foot, back…), the right-hander had tumbled to 74.e world ranking by the end of 2021. On Monday it points to 4e rank corresponding to its best ranking achieved in 2017.
That year, the French was invited for the first time to the final banquet after a royal tour in China, where she had won two titles in quick succession at the WTA 1000 tournaments (the category just below the Grand Slams) from Wuhan and Beijing. But during the Masters in Singapore she had failed in the semi-finals, then beaten by the American Venus Williams. The WTA (the body that administers the women’s circuit) has decided to turn its back on China due to the Peng Shuai case, but also health restrictions in the country, and the event has been moved since last year.
A French tornado at the US Open
As in 2017, Garcia won his last-minute ticket to the Texas meet. The reward for a flamboyant summer that began with a doubles title at Roland-Garros with compatriot Kristina Mladenovic. Between mid-June and mid-September, the Lyonnaise collected 31 singles successes in 36 matches, with three trophies lifted on three different surfaces, in Bad Homburg (Germany) on grass, Warsaw on clay – and in passing beat the number of the world Polish Iga Swiatek at home – and in Cincinnati (Ohio) hard. An American tour ended with a first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open in early September.
For ten days, the right-hander with an explosive game had impressed the entire tennis court at Flushing Meadows, on a cloud physically and mentally. Before she saw the pressure catch up with her one step from the final, swept away by Tunisian Ons Jabeur. But the attitude was promising, according to former world number 1 Justine Hénin. “Today, a player who is in her position is extremely focused, said the Belgian at the time World. It shows that she is sure to be there, whereas in recent years we felt she was lost on earth. This return to the top, it starts above all from a fulfillment and this confidence – regained or finally acquired. »
Today, Caroline Garcia finally seems to give the full measure of her athletic qualities, which were discovered for a long time by the sharpest eyes on the court. In 2011, in the wake of a second-round Roland-Garros loss to former Russian boss Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray and former player Martina Navratilova promised the 17-year-old teenager the costume of world number 1. Expectations too heavy to bear: between In 2018 and 2021, she will only win two titles.
“It was difficult because people expected a lot from me. I was around the 150the200e world rank, I was 17 and my game wasn’t ready. I wasn’t able to play consistently at that kind of level.” she explained at the last US Open.
A return to the highest level, largely to be credited to Bertrand Perret, former coach of, among others, Chinese Peng Shuai and Ons Jabeur, called to the rescue in December 2021. The sign of a desire for late emancipation. Tennis was until now a family affair: Garcia had spent his entire career under the orders of his father, Louis-Paul. A relationship often commented on, even criticized. Absent from court at the request of his daughter in May 2021, the father had rejoined the clan a few months later, remotely, in a leadership role.
Surprising departure of his coach on the eve of the tournament
But the idyllic beginnings of this new arrangement have apparently given way to misunderstandings. Garcia arrived in Texas amid a rodeo 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 ruining the atmosphere and I preferred to stop”, he laconically confided on October 28 to The team.
By the time he returned from New York, his protégé had experienced a phase of decompensation: six difficult weeks and just one win in three tournaments. Suffice to say, Garcia didn’t approach the final meet of the year in the best of conditions. “The preparation was not ideal”, she admitted before the start of the competition.
In Fort Worth, where she was accompanied by her father and Argentine coach Juan Pablo Guzman, who had already worked with her last year, she was able to drive away bad thoughts. After a solid start against American Coco Gauff for his first group match, the Frenchman was then beaten sharply by Iga Swiatek. But to everyone’s surprise, the Pole was eliminated in the semi-finals by Sabalenka. At the same stage, Garcia made an almost perfect copy against the Greek Maria Sakkari (5e world), without showing any signs of fatigue despite a match of almost 2:30 the day before, to get out of Russia’s 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 forward, “It’s always been my mentality, she added Parisian on the eve of his entry into competition at the Masters. We could see that it did a lot of damage to the players opposite. It is a game that has given me great success.
Maximum risk-taking which generates some waste, but above all a package of winning moves when the confidence is there. Add to that a ruthless serve: 394 aces lined up this year (including eleven in today’s final), a statistic that has earned her the position of top trigger on the women’s circuit this season.
Caroline Garcia leaves Texas crowned with a new status: Call her the new sheriff for these ladies.
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