Caroline Garcia did a ‘Raducanu’, winning 8 matches in a row from qualifying to lifting the Western & Southern Open trophy in Cincinnati, when she felled Petra Kvitova in the final on Sunday to claim her 3rd elite title, and the 10th of her career.
There was a song, ‘The Girl is on Fire’, right? I was, like, this is the best description of her [Garcia]. I think she is kind of the player who can beat everybody. It’s my own experience. I think, that when she is on, she is on. We saw it whole tournament this week Petra Kvitova
It has been a dream of a week for the 28-year-old Frenchwoman, who defeated the Czech, 6-2 6-4, and, in the process, became the first qualifier to win a WTA 1000 event since the tier was first introduced in 2009.
Five years ago, Garcia won the tournaments in Wuhan and Beijing in a Chinese double and, in September 2018, reached a career high ranking of No 4 in the world.
Since coming back from a foot injury in May, Garcia has won 3 events on 3 different surfaces, on clay in Warsaw, where she beat World No 1 Iga Swiatek, grass in Bad Homburg, and now adds the prestigious hard-court title in Cincinnati to her 2022 exploits.
“Pure joy, just happiness,” she said. “Every single win is very important. It’s always very hard to describe
“It doesn’t happen so often, and you have to really enjoy it.
“I’m grateful for this great week of tennis, and to win another title, it’s very special.”
Currently ranked 35, Garcia leads the WTA Tour with 27 match wins since June, and credits her work with new coach Bertrand Perret for her more aggressive, attacking game, while she has also added a full-time travelling physio to her team.
With 33 match-wins on the year in total, only Iga Swiatek (50), Simona Halep (39) and Ons Jabeur (38) have more victories this season than Garcia.
“I was not that confident when I arrived, quallies were tough matches,” she said. “I was really happy to be through and play in the main draw.
“Every match was a new challenge. I had to be focused on myself, on my game, what can I do, how I can be more aggressive, how can I improve.
“Just one day at a time, I ended up here today on the final, and now lifting the trophy!
“The [WTA] 1000, everything goes so fast. You have to refocus every morning. It’s a tough challenge, but I’m really happy the way we made it through.”
Garcia’s ranking fell as low as 79 this year but, since Roland Garros, no-one has been hotter on tour, and she will break back into the Top 20 at No 17 on Monday.
After battling through qualifying, Garcia beat 3 Top 10 world-ranked opponents, Maria Sakkari, Aryna Sabalenka and Jessica Pegula, on the way to the final, where she delivered another master class.
Kvitova, who has won Wimbledon twice and is ranked 28, was playing the 40th final of her career and looking for a 30th title, but needed off-court medical treatment and ultimately could not deal with Garcia’s aggressive game.
“It was definitely not the result I wanted but, if someone had told me I would be in the final, I would be very happy,” said Kvitova. “I have to see the positive things: I could have been out in my first match, [and] I have to be proud of the 40th final of my career.
“I didn’t win the bigger trophy, but she really played very, very well.
“Caroline just, when she was down, she just served aces. She deserved to win.”
During her summer hot streak, Garcia has become the WTA Tour’s ace leader and her serve got her out of trouble when the chips were down.
Garcia fired 11 aces in the final, increasing her total for the year to 286, and now has a 10-3 win-loss record in WTA finals to show for it.
On Sunday, she saved all 8 break points she faced, while Kvitova began badly, coughing up 2 of her 4 double-faults in the opening game, but she pressed Garcia into a lengthy service game next up, who managed to hold to take a 2-0 lead, and then took full control of the first set as she sped to go up 4-0.
Kvitova struggled to control both in her groundstrokes and her serve, and soon found herself a double break down and, although she made it onto the scoreboard and carved out a couple of break points, each time Garcia held steady.
It took the Frenchwoman just 39 minutes to snag the first set, and she was looking like a shoe-in for the title when she secured another immediate break in the second, followed by a confident hold of serve that gave her another 2-0 lead.
While Kvitova held for 1-2, she sought medical attention for her leg off the court, leaving Garcia to keep her engine revving with practice serves and shadow swings.
On the Czech’s return, things threatened to turn around as Kvitova clung on to her service games but she could not penetrate Garcia’s deliveries, and simply could not recover the break.
She nearly pulled back on serve with a 0-40 lead at 3-2, but powerful serving by Garcia helped stave that threat off, and the Frenchwoman maintained her single break lead.
Two aces at 5-4 brought Garcia to double championship point, and she converted at her first opportunity after another solid serve forced a short Kvitova return.
Dropping to her knees, Garcia lay on her back on the court after the final point.
“We know [Kvitova is] a big hitter, trying to move you as soon as she can and putting pressure on the return,” Garcia said. “So the plan was definitely to not let her do that, which is not always easy, but that was the plan.
“It’s been such a crazy road the last couple of weeks, but I’ve really enjoyed it. [Let’s] keep it going.”
Garcia broke 32-year old Kvitova 3 times, and was dominant in most of the match stats, winning 82% of her first serve points, and 100% on break points, and while the Czech was the better on second serve points won at 52%, and 70% on second return points, Kvitova could only win 9 out of 50 points off the Frenchwoman’s first serve.
“The big question right now is with my health,” Kvitova said later. “How everything will be in a couple of days, but still, having a week before US Open, will help me, I hope.”
Garcia had repeated her victory over Kvitova here 7 years ago, taking 96 minutes.
“It’s hard to believe I am standing here today, you know, it’s been such a week,” Garcia said at the trophy presentation.
She is the 4th French player since 1980 with 10 or more WTA-level titles, after Amelie Mauresmo (25), Mary Pierce (18) and Julie Halard (12).
“I don’t know how to describe that week because I came here on Wednesday night to get ready for quallies,” said Garcia. “Just trying to find my rhythm, to feel better, to get the body healthy and to adapt to the hard court.”
Kvitova summed up Garcia’s recent resurgence: “There was a song, ‘The Girl is on Fire’, right? I was, like, this is the best description of her [Garcia]. “I think she is kind of the player who can beat everybody.
“It’s my own experience. I think, that when she is on, she is on. We saw it whole tournament this week.”