The blistering bagel that Caroline Garcia served to Julia Görges in the first set of their third round clash at the Miami Open must have tasted sweeter than a bowl of cherries to France’s world #21. Though Görges attempted to mount a fightback in the second, coming close to taking the match the distance, Garcia hung tough to seal a 6-0 7-5 victory. One significant not only because it sent her into the round of 16 in the Sunshine State, but also because of the manner of her performance. In short, Caroline Garcia is back to her best.
Caroline Garcia is a dark horse
For much of the last eighteen months, Garcia has looked a world away from the player who pipped Johanna Konta to the last spot at WTA Finals in 2017 with a superb run at the back end of that season. There had been signs of better form this year, but she was still nowhere near her best. She certainly did not look like making an impact at the business end of major tournaments. But after a great start to the Miami Open, she can no longer be discounted as a title threat.
Garcia showed both the quality of her tennis, as she swept aside Görges in the first set, and the strength of her resolve, as she battened down the hatches to come through a tight second. It was also her second straight-sets victory in a row in Miami after an equally impressive 6-3 6-4 win over former champion Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Both wins illustrate that Garcia means business in Miami.
Her section of the draw also looks reasonably open, although Petra Kvitova, Kiki Bertens and Ashleigh Barty lurk in Garcia’s quarter as potentially dangerous obstacles that cannot be ignored. But if Garcia can maintain her own level, she can beat anyone on her day. She showed as much by putting Kvitova to the sword in the China Open semifinals in 2017 en route to the title.
Quality from the line key for Garcia
Back-to-back defeats to America’s Jennifer Brady in Dubai and Indian Wells were a set back, however. Despite an impressive first serve percentage of 70.5% across both matches against Brady, Garcia’s groundstrokes lacked the sort of penetration and accuracy required to get her across the line. But there has been a marked improvement in nearly all areas of her game so far in Miami. Against Azarenka, despite making only a fairly disappointing 64% of her first serves, she was consistently able to hit through the Belarusian off the ground.
Against Görges, she managed to improve from the line, making 74% of her first serves. Indeed, she actually out aced the big-serving German, seven to five. She also defended her second serve superbly, winning 71% of the points behind it, whilst climbing all over Görges first serve, winning 45% of the points against it in what was surely her best returning performance of the year so far. If she can continue to play with such authority, she will take some stopping this week.
Garcia should always be a contender
With the French Open on the horizon, Garcia’s return to form will be a shot in the arm for the host nation. Already a French Open winner in the doubles in 2016, expectation will surely be rising on Garcia to better her best Slam result of a quarterfinals appearance at the French Open two years ago. She has the quality to do so and the support of the vocal Parisian crowd could just give her the lift she needs. Nor would a title in Miami hurt her chances ahead of the second Major of the year.
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