In Fort Worth (Texas), 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 (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 of the year.
In the final, in a duel of attackers, she bent the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka (7e World), after 1:41 a.m. (7-6, 6-4). Caroline Garcia becomes, at 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.
“We were lucky to have great champions in France in the past, I’m really proud to be part of it. There is a lot of work behind. This is an important step in my career. I hope to continue to grow my record.”, she reacted to the press.
This title, the 11e of Garcia’s singles career, completes a season in the form of a rebirth after more than four years of soul-stirring. Between tennis in distress, crisis of confidence and recurring physical problems (foot, back…), the right-hander had tumbled to the 74e world place at the end of 2021. On Monday, it will point to 4e rank, equaling its best ranking, achieved in 2018.
At the end of 2017, the Frenchwoman was invited for the first time to the final banquet after a royal tour in China which had seen her win two titles in quick succession during the WTA 1000 tournaments (the category just below the Grand Slams) in Wuhan. and Beijing. But, during the Masters in Singapore, she had failed in the semi-finals, then beaten by the American Venus Williams.
A French tornado at the US Open
As in 2017, Garcia won his ticket at the last minute for the Texas meeting. The reward for a flamboyant summer, which began with a doubles title at Roland-Garros with her compatriot Kristina Mladenovic. Between mid-June and mid-September, the Lyonnaise compiled – in singles – 31 successes in 36 matches, with three trophies lifted on three different surfaces, in Bad Homburg (Germany) on grass, Warsaw on clay – beating in passing Polish world number one Iga Swiatek at home – and in Cincinnati (Ohio) on hard. An American tour concluded with a first Grand Slam semi-final, at the US Open, in early September.
Physically and mentally on cloud nine, the right-hander with an explosive game had impressed the entire tennis court for ten days at Flushing Meadows. Before seeing the pressure catch up with her one step from the final, swept away by the Tunisian Ons Jabeur. But the attitude was promising, according to former world number one Justine Hénin. “Today is a player who is in her place, extremely focused, said the Belgian at the time World. It shows, she is confident to be there, whereas, in recent years, we felt she was lost on the ground. 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, detected for a long time by the sharpest eyes on the circuit. In 2011, in the wake of a second round of Roland-Garros lost to former Russian boss Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray and former player Martina Navratilova promised the 17-year-old teenager the costume of world number one. Expectations too heavy to bear: between 2018 and 2021, she will only win two titles.
“It was difficult because people expected a lot from me. I was around the 150e200e world place, I was 17 and my game wasn’t ready. I was not able to play with regularity at this kind of level., she explained at the last US Open.
A return to the highest level to be largely credited 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 to late emancipation. At the Garcia’s, tennis, until now, was a family affair: Caroline had spent her entire career under the orders of her father, Louis-Paul. A relationship often commented on, even criticized. Away from the court at the request of his daughter in May 2021, the father had, a few months later, rejoined the clan, from a distance, in a managerial role.
Surprise departure on the eve of the tournament
But the idyllic beginnings of this new arrangement did not last. Garcia arrived in Texas in the middle of 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 spoiling the atmosphere and I preferred to stop”, he confided laconically on October 28 to The Team.
On his return from New York, his protege had experienced a phase of decompensation: six difficult weeks and only one victory in three tournaments. Suffice to say that Garcia did not approach the last meeting 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 Guzman, who had already worked with her in 2021, she was able to drive away bad thoughts. After a solid start against the American Coco Gauff for her first group match, the Frenchwoman was then sharply beaten by Iga Swiatek. But to everyone’s surprise, the Polish 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 battle of almost 2:30 the day before, to get 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 forward, “That’s always been my mentality” she said to Parisian on the eve of his entry into the running at the Masters. ” We could see that it did a lot of damage to the players opposite. It’s a game that brought me a lot of success. »
Maximum risk-taking, which generates some waste, but above all a package of winning moves when confidence is there. Add to that a ruthless serve: 394 aces lined up this year (including eleven in the final of the day), a statistic that has earned her the position of being the finest trigger on the women’s circuit this season.
Caroline Garcia leaves Texas crowned with a new status: call her the new sheriff of these ladies.
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