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 method up, undoubtedly”. Andy Murray was much more impressed. “The woman Sharapova is enjoying goes to be No. 1 at some point. Caroline Garcia, what a participant, you heard it right 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 hunch 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 undoubtedly plenty of large happiness,” stated Garcia, the final girl standing in an elite discipline that featured the season’s prime 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 really feel,” she stated after beating American prodigy Coco Gauff to make the semifinals.
The lengthy highway 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 one of the best season of her life. The yr marked the end result of an extended highway 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 harm, 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: arduous (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 have been Petra Kvitova, Emma Raducanu, Bianca Andreescu (twice) and Simona Halep. She was additionally credited with a walkover towards Elena Rybakina.
Readability of thought and a renewed belief in an attacking model have lifted Garcia again to the highest. She stated she skilled a essential epiphany at Dangerous Homburg in June, the place she was down a set to Aliaksandra Sasnovich within the opening spherical and stated to herself, “You must go for it.”
“You miss, you miss, however you must do one thing. I used to be practising to be aggressive, to maneuver ahead, however I had some points doing it in matches, and that’s the place it modified, actually, within the second set of that first spherical. I went for it. I didn’t know if it was going to work, however I believed.”
Excessive danger, excessive reward
Garcia has the instruments to implement an aggressive model and maintain the factors brief. A strong serve — she makes use of her athletic 5’10” body to glorious impact — and experience on the internet, developed in doubles, enable her to step into the courtroom each time a gap presents itself.
“After I arrived on tour, I used to be undoubtedly enjoying like that,” Garcia stated. “My sport model is to undoubtedly go on the shorter rallies, so attempt to put strain on the serve and the return. That’s the best way I discovered to play tennis. Tennis performed ahead is what I like.”
However a high-risk-high-reward strategy calls for fearlessness and an acceptance of errors, one thing she used to have hassle with. “Typically I did doubt it, as a result of it was not all the time working,” she stated. “After which I did it type of half and half, and it was not working anymore.”
The foot harm earlier within the yr liberated her, serving to her obtain the fearlessness required. “My foot harm made me realise how a lot I wished to return again and, above all, play my actual sport, the one I like to observe: offensive tennis,” Garcia wrote on social media after her WTA Finals triumph. “I like going to the online, hitting winners, drop volleys, slamming aces, to be contained in the courts on the return. This harm allowed me to play extra liberated. I discovered to let go.”
Garcia’s coach, Bertrand Perret, additionally helped her make peace with errors. “She’s such a perfectionist woman,” he informed L’Equipe. “It was a blast to work together with her, however she’s perhaps even too perfectionist. She didn’t settle for making errors. Together with her dangerous sport, should you don’t settle for making errors, you get annoyed. Caroline wanted to simply accept making errors.”
In maybe the one actual low of the season for Garcia, Perret give up her teaching workforce forward of the Finals. Garcia stated 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 nicely that she put collectively such a powerful efficiency within the season finale, however the impact of Perret’s exit, if any, will solely be recognized 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 any doubt that Garcia’s finest model — a disruptive, attacking model, 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. But it surely stays to be seen whether or not she will proceed to name upon it as persistently as she did this yr.
Though decided to remain within the second and revel in her success, Garcia will hope 2022 is the beginning of one thing even greater.