Within the second spherical of Roland Garros in 2011, 17-year-old Caroline Garcia had Maria Sharapova on the ropes, main 6-3, 4-1. Though she couldn’t put the then three-time Main-winner away, Garcia caught the attention. Sharapova thought she was “on her way up, definitely”. Andy Murray was much more impressed. “The girl Sharapova is playing is going to be No. 1 one day. Caroline Garcia, what a player, you heard it here first,” he tweeted.
That prediction is but to be realised — the 29-year-old from Lyon has struggled to dwell as much as the lofty expectations. However in 2022, Garcia clawed her method out of a profession stoop and confirmed simply why she was as soon as so extremely rated.
She scored the most important victory of her profession to assert the season-ending WTA Finals final month, solely the second French participant to win the title after Amelie Mauresmo in 2005. “It’s definitely a lot of giant happiness,” mentioned Garcia, the final girl standing in an elite subject that featured the season’s high eight gamers.
She had additionally superior to the final 4 of a Grand Slam singles occasion for the primary time in her profession on the US Open earlier within the yr. “My head is buzzing, I can’t describe how I feel,” she mentioned after beating American prodigy Coco Gauff to make the semifinals.
The lengthy street again
Add her doubles triumph with Kristina Mladenovic at Roland Garros — her second Grand Slam trophy, having received the identical occasion in 2016 with Mladenovic — and you’ll see why she described 2022 as the perfect season of her life. The yr marked the end result of an extended street again for Garcia, who had not collected a singles title since 2019.
Having began 2022 at No. 74 after which slipping to No. 79 in Could, when she made a return from a foot damage, she ended the season by equalling her career-best rating of World No. 4. For the second time in her profession, she received greater than 40 singles matches in a yr, as she pocketed 4 singles titles throughout all three surfaces: exhausting (Cincinnati, Finals), grass (Dangerous Homburg) and clay (Warsaw).
She was particularly good between mid-June and mid-September. She received 31 of her 36 matches, which gave her three of her 4 titles of the season. Over the yr, she notched up eight top-10 victories, together with a troublesome three-set conquest of No. 1 Iga Swiatek in Poland. The opposite Main winners she discovered a well past in 2022 had been Petra Kvitova, Emma Raducanu, Bianca Andreescu (twice) and Simona Halep. She was additionally credited with a walkover in opposition to Elena Rybakina.
Readability of thought and a renewed belief in an attacking type have lifted Garcia again to the highest. She mentioned she skilled a important epiphany at Dangerous Homburg in June, the place she was down a set to Aliaksandra Sasnovich within the opening spherical and mentioned to herself, “You have to go for it.”
“You miss, you miss, but you have to do something. I was practising to be aggressive, to move forward, but I had some issues doing it in matches, and that’s where it changed, really, in the second set of that first round. I went for it. I didn’t know if it was going to work, but I believed.”
Excessive danger, excessive reward
Garcia has the instruments to implement an aggressive type and maintain the factors quick. A strong serve — she makes use of her athletic 5’10” body to glorious impact — and experience on the web, developed in doubles, permit her to step into the court docket every time a gap presents itself.
“When I arrived on tour, I was definitely playing like that,” Garcia mentioned. “My game style is to definitely go on the shorter rallies, so try to put pressure on the serve and the return. That’s the way I learned to play tennis. Tennis played forward is what I like.”
However a high-risk-high-reward method calls for fearlessness and an acceptance of errors, one thing she used to have bother with. “Sometimes I did doubt it, because it was not always working,” she mentioned. “And then I did it kind of half and half, and it was not working anymore.”
The foot damage earlier within the yr liberated her, serving to her obtain the fearlessness required. “My foot injury made me realise how much I wanted to come back and, above all, play my real game, the one I like to watch: offensive tennis,” Garcia wrote on social media after her WTA Finals triumph. “I love going to the net, hitting winners, drop volleys, slamming aces, to be inside the courts on the return. This injury allowed me to play more liberated. I learned to let go.”
Garcia’s coach, Bertrand Perret, additionally helped her make peace with errors. “She’s such a perfectionist girl,” he instructed L’Equipe. “It was a blast to work with her, but she’s maybe even too perfectionist. She didn’t accept making mistakes. With her risky game, if you don’t accept making mistakes, you get frustrated. Caroline needed to accept making mistakes.”
In maybe the one actual low of the season for Garcia, Perret give up her teaching staff forward of the Finals. Garcia mentioned Perret’s departure got here as a shock however didn’t present any particulars. On the Finals, she labored with Argentine Juan Pablo Guzman, with whom she had collaborated beforehand. It bodes properly that she put collectively such a robust efficiency within the season finale, however the impact of Perret’s exit, if any, will solely be identified over the subsequent yr.
A singles Grand Slam title, the No. 1 rating and a medal in her residence Olympics in 2024 are on her wishlist. There isn’t a doubt that Garcia’s greatest model — a disruptive, attacking type, backed up by a warrior’s mindset, which was evident in her epic win over Daria Kasatkina within the Finals — can beat anyone, on any floor, on any stage. However it stays to be seen whether or not she will be able to proceed to name upon it as persistently as she did this yr.
Though decided to remain within the second and luxuriate in her success, Garcia will hope 2022 is the beginning of one thing even greater.