Singapore | Garcia wins thriller
The dark horse, a late-comer to the WTA Finals, pulled off a thrilling win over Caroline Wozniacki to keep her hopes alive of qualifying for the semi-final knockout stage of the competition.
The other Caroline, France’s Garcia, was one game from defeat in her last two matches and on Day 6 she seemed down and out after a first-set whitewash at the hands of the Dane, who had dropped just four games in Singapore in her previous two outings.
Garcia, however, kept her hopes alive with a stunning fightback in their final round-robin match in the Red Group of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
She was playing amazing in the first set, I was a little down. Finally I found my rhythm but like the previous match it was up and down but I finished well. Caroline Garcia
She found a way to recover from a desperate first set to win 0-6 6-3 7-5, ensuring she can still reach the semi-finals.
Wozniacki had picked up in the same sparkling form that she had displayed in her previous matches this week.
The World No 6 had delivered a bagel set in each of her resounding round robin wins over Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep, and she dished up another to Garcia in just 22 minutes, permitting the Frenchwoman a mere seven points.
It was the first time in the history of the WTA Finals that any player has scored three 6-0 sets.
Wozniacki had already qualified from the Red Group after her two wins and Garcia could join her as the group winner if Simona Halep lost to Elina Svitolina in the last round-robin tie.
The Dane became distracted, receiving a time violation in the third game of the second set after the cap of her racket flew off and then getting into a discussion with umpire Julie Kjendlie about a ball she wrongly believed touched Garcia’s racket.
She saved two break points but lost her serve twice in a row and the shift in momentum was complete.
Wozniacki called down her father for a chat at 2-5, complaining about the time violation, and broke to love for 3-5 but, in the very next game, Garcia converted her second set point as she ripped a deep forehand return that the Dane handled but sent her forehand response long.
The French No 1 cleaned things up with 9 winners to 7 errors in the set and managed to bring the match into a decider.
Garcia, one of three debutantes this year, alongside Svitolina and Jelena Ostapenko, fell for the fifth time in as many tries against a World No 1 to open her campaign.
Her loss to Halep ended an 11-match winning streak, but in beating Svitolina she gained some hope of becoming the first Frenchwoman to reach the semi-finals since Amelie Mauresmo in 2006.
Garcia had improved her win loss record against top 5 opponent to 4-18 and celebrated her 13th top 10 win.
The World No 6 served for the match at 5-4 but Garcia showed astonishing resilience as Wozniacki saved two break points with sublime defence.
The Frenchwoman earned a third and converted as she made the Dane miss, dropping her serve without sight of a match point.
While it was an unexpected defeat for Wozniacki at the hands of Garcia, it proved to be the best match of the 2017 WTA Finals thus far.
The yet to be determined winner of the Red Group will take on Karolina Pliskova in Saturday’s semi-finals, while the runner-up will take on Venus Williams.
“She was playing amazing in the first set, I was a little down,” admitted Garcia, who came back from being down in the final set for the second match in a row.
“Finally I found my rhythm but like the previous match it was up and down but I finished well.”
At 3-5 in the third set, Garcia won four straight games, including fighting off three break points to hold for 6-5, and score the victory over Wozniacki.
It was a significant comeback against the most convincing player in the Singapore draw who delivered her a bagel in the opening set.
“In the second set, I told myself to just try to play with greater intensity with my legs,” the World No 8 said.
Garcia is in top form, with back-to-back tournaments victories in Wuhan and Beijing to qualify for her first WTA Finals.
Having suffered a tough year with a recurrent back injury, Garcia said the ordeal has taught her to be a better player, both physically and mentally.
“Sometimes it makes you stronger, what you’ve been through. I just kept believing more and I don’t care what people say anymore,” she added.
The result put Wozniacki’s hopes of finishing top of the Red Group in doubt.
With Svitolina out of qualifying contention, if Halep won she would qualify in second position and play Pliskova, while Wozniack would face Venus Williams.
If the Ukrainian managed to beat Halep, it would be Garcia who tops the group, with Wozniacki in second place.
The Dane could still become the eighth player to lose a match in the round robin stage who goes on to win the WTA Finals title.
Five times in the last four years, a player who lost two matches in the group stage has progressed to the semi-finals or better.
If Wozniacki does take the title, it would her 60th match win of the season for the fourth time in her career and afford her a real crack at the year-end World No 1 ranking.