London | WTA Roundup – Garcia makes hometown final in Lyon as unseeded players meet in Thailand

The finals of the two WTA 250 events held this week feature 4 players of different nationalities, with Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia powering her way past Camila Osorio to reach the Last 2 in Lyon where she plays surprise American finalist Alycia Parks, while some 6,000 miles in Hua Hin in Thailand, two unseeded veterans, Zhu Lin from China and Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko will compete for the silverware.

Every day I feel more comfortable and enjoying more the atmosphere at home. It’s a privilege and a chance to be able to play a final in France, and a final in my own town. I arrived to play my game, to be very accurate from the beginning. Caroline Garcia

At the Open 6e Sens Metropole de Lyon, Garcia, the World No 5, is playing in her hometown, which brings its own pressures, but she was in supreme form against Osorio, whom she dispatched with some aplomb, 6-2 6-2, in Saturday’s semi-final in 72 minutes.

A former top tenner, Garcia was barely inside the Top 80 last May before completely turning her entire career around by winning 4 singles titles, including the WTA Finals.

She had high expectations at the start of this season but was upset by Poland’s Magda Linette, ranked 45, in the round of 16 at the Australian Open and is looking for a strong performance in front of her family and friends.

“Yeah, you always try to get the lesson about your losses and try to make [it] better,” Garcia said following that disappointing defeat. “Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes it’s not.

“Depends what I’ve been wrong, but you’ll always try to learn from your mistakes.”

Plagued by injuries and illness, her renaissance began when she won the doubles title at Roland Garros in 2022 with fellow Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic and it sparked a fire inside her.

On Garcia’s best days during these past 6 months, she has been absolutely electric, and that sort of form re-appeared against the 21-year old Osorio, who had upset 3rd-seeded Alizé Cornet in the 1st-round.

It proved a rather comfortable ride for Garcia as she cruised in both sets demonstrating all her raw power, although Osorio did try her best to stem the tide but could not find the necessary level to be any sort of threat to the very solid top seed.

“Definitely a good match, very solid from my side,” Garcia said later. “Every day I feel more comfortable and enjoying more the atmosphere at home.

“It’s a privilege and a chance to be able to play a final in France, and a final in my own town.

“I arrived to play my game, to be very accurate from the beginning.

“It’s one of the most important weapons in my game and I have to keep improving on that. [Osorio is] a tough opponent, she’s moving very well through the court. I had some tough moments, but I was able to go past [them].”

Garcia never faced a break point in the first set, reeling off 4 games in a row to take the opening frame and, although she was forced to stare down 4 break points in the second, she erased each of those chances, and is now one win away from her 12th career WTA singles title.


Surprise Lyon finalist Alycia Parks saw off Maryna Zanevska in the semi-final

@ImmobilierMétropoledeLyon/Instagram

Her next opponent, Parks, also caught fire late last year, rising from outside the Top 150 as recently as last September to No 79, and winning a pair of titles in December at the WTA 125 events in Andorra and Angiers, France.

She also made a bit of a splash at the 2021 US Open, when she hit a record-tying 129 mph serve during her 1st-round loss.

The 22-year old American overcame Maryna Zanevska, 6-3 7-6(4), in her semi-final on Saturday, in a match in which the Belgian provided more of a fight in the second set.

Her wider range of skills have taken Parks to the final in Lyon, and her serve, excellent movement, powerful groundstrokes, and drop-shots, coupled with several crisp volleys, were all on display during her one hour 53 win win, although she was pushed hard at times by her 29-year opponent, who is ranked 93.

Serving at 5-1, 40–0 in the first set, Parks lost the next 2 games and only closed out the opener on her 5th set point, while similar drama came in the next set when she was serving at 5-4, 30-15, and feathered a backhand drop-shot that deftly clipped the net.

With 2 match points in hand, though, Parks was unable to close out the match and 2 games later, she served at 5-6, 15-40 down before winning 11 of the next 15 points.

“I think the key was just staying focused, and taking my time out there,” Parks said, after her win. “Every time I got ahead of myself, I would, kind of, lose points, so I would tell myself to slow down.

“This whole week, I’m kind of relaxed this week, and just kept playing my game and doing me.”

Fans in Lyon will they see their home favourite take on Parks, in a final match that sees two players of similar styles pitch their skills against each other.

Garcia and Parks met in August 2021, in the 1st-round of qualifying in Cincinnati when Garcia won, but by a score that should encourage Parks, who took her the distance, 6-3 1-6 6-3.

“[Parks] has very big shots, forehand, serve,” Garcia said. “Great forehand shot, very accurate, so I will have to play my best match for sure.

“It’s a final, we both want to get the trophy, and every point will be very important.”


Zhu Lin (R) beat her doubles partner Wang Xinyu to make the Thailand Open final, and the pair are in the doubles final together

@WTAThailandOpen/Instagram

Hua Hin | WTA 250 Thailand Open presented by E@

Over in Asia, two unseeded veterans in Zhu Lin and Lesia Tsurenko are competing for the Thailand Open title in Hua Hin.

The final shows that pro tennis careers are lasting longer, with Zhu having turned 29 last month and playing the first singles final of her career while, for the 33-year old Tsurenko, is in her 6th career singles final, having won 4 of her previous 5, but first since 2018.

Zhu has been a revelation this year, beating  Venus Williams in the 2nd-round of Auckland and reaching the round of 16 for the first time at the Australian Open, her 13th attempt at a major, taking out Rebecca Marino, Jil Teichmann and, most notably, World No 7, Maria Sakkari, on the way.

“It took me a long way to get here, and so that’s why I’m so emotional tonight,” Zhu said following that win. “This is not the end. Let’s keep going.”

Beaten by the resurgent Victoria Azarenka in Melbourne, Zhu dropped the opener of her 1st-round match in Hua Hin, but since then has yet to drop a set.

Ranked No 140 at the end of 2021, Zhu now stands at a career-high of No 54.

In the first semi-final on Saturday, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu in the all-Chinese contest, and prevailed 6-2 6-4, after an hour and 37 minutes, relying on her solid baseline game to force those miscues.

“Happy to win the semi-final against Xinyu,” Zhu said after her victory. “We are close friends, it [is] very tough to play against each other, ’cause we know each other so well. I’m happy that I handled it very well.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” added Zhu, who will team up with Wang in Sunday’s doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan & Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.


Lesia Tsurenko reached the Thailand Open final when top seed Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury

Photo by 2023 Thailand Open presented by E@ / WTAtennis.com

Meanwhile, Tsurenko, who has stumbled in recent years to a current spot of No 136 after a career high of 23 in February 2019, made it through AO qualifying but easily lost her 1st-round match to Karolina Muchova.

In Hua Hin, though, the Ukrainian has played superbly, beating 3 seeds, including a 6-1 6-1 rout of 2022 Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria from Germany and, in Saturday’s semi-final, staging an impressive comeback against the No 1 seed, 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.

The first set was extremely tight with the first 4 games being breaks of serve.

Andreescu got the crucial break to lead 5-3 and served for the first set, but the Ukrainian fought back to level the set at 5-5, and then went a break up before closing out the opener.

The encounter then became completely one-sided as Tsurenko continued to strike the ball with significant depth and pace, rattling off 8 straight games before the Canadian, who had a medical timeout during a second set changeover, opted to halt play due to a right shoulder injury.

“Bianca is such an amazing player,” said Tsurenko on court after her 7-5, 4-0 Retired win. “She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today, but I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.

“I completely understand how Bianca feels, because I also had long-term injuries, so I feel really sorry for her,” Tsurenko added later. “I also told her after the match that I think that she’s an amazing player.

“The way [Andreescu is] playing every point, like she has an idea in every point, so of course she’s an amazing player.

“It was a big challenge for me to handle this, and I was just saying to myself that I have to keep fighting, and this is probably the main key that worked today for me.”

Zhu and Tsurenko have only played each other once, with Tsurenko winning a 3-setter 4 years ago in Dubai.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” said Tsurenko, who last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

The two WTA 250 tournaments this week provided the players with more than $500,000 in prize money, which is in sharp contrast to the early days of women’s tennis, half a century ago, when the first fully-fledged women’s pro tour, then known as the Virginia Slims Circuit, had just begun its 3rd full year.

Only one event took place that week in February 1973, a tournament located in Bethesda, Maryland, which had a total purse of $25,000 and, of the 4 semi-finalists, the geographic reach was limited to 2 Australians, and 2 Americans.



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