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Advanced Edition: Can Caroline Garcia fulfill Grand Slam destiny at the US Open?
Garcia is into her first major singles semifinal, just over a decade after Andy Murray prophesized big things for the powerful Frenchwoman.
Published Sep 07, 2022
WATCH: Garcia spoke to press after winning the Western & Southern Open before arriving in Flushing Meadows.
NEW YORK—You’ve all seen the tweet: Andy Murray was watching a French teenager bring Maria Sharapova to the brink of defeat at 2011 Roland Garros, and declared the following:
The girl in question was Caroline Garcia, who hailed from Saint-Germain-en-Laye—the birthplace of Hall of Famer Amélie Mauresmo—and struck an intimidating serve-and-forehand combination that had the former world No. 1 utterly on the ropes. Though Garcia ultimately failed to score the iconic upset, many assumed it was only a matter of time before she was a Grand Slam contender.
Garcia is at last on the brink of fulfilling that destiny eleven long years later, riding a 14-match winning streak into her first major singles semifinal at the US Open.
But can she go all the way in Flushing Meadows?
Why She’ll Win
Garcia has showed plenty of promise in the decade since Murray’s big prediction, most notably in 2017 when she won back-to-back titles in Wuhan and Beijing to qualify for the WTA Finals. Less than a year later, she was No. 4 in the rankings, but consistency has long proved elusive for the aggressive all-courter.
“When it was 2011 after the Sharapova match, it was a lot of pressure coming from actually nowhere,” she explained after outgutting Coco Gauff in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. “I was No. 150-200 in the world, 17 years old. My game was not ready. I was not able to play that consistent, this kind of level. The weeks after, I went back trying to play the same level, but it was not possible for me.
“It was tough because people were expecting a lot. But the game, I was not ready for anything of that. It took me some time to come step by step to the top.”
Opting to take time off earlier this season to heel a nagging foot injury, Garcia has come back ready to leave it all on the court with an aggressive intent that has left opponents stumped all summer.
“I was hitting a couple 120s on the serve, the return was coming back faster,” exclaimed a beaten Gauff of Garcia’s close return position. “Usually you expect that to happen once or twice, but it was happening a lot with her today.”
It was tough because people were expecting a lot. But the game, I was not ready for anything of that. It took me some time to come step by step to the top. Caroline Garcia
“It doesn't look that different to me,” Garcia answered when asked of her suffocating style. “I'm trying to play tennis.”
Garcia has arguably set the standard since entering Western & Southern Open qualifying last month, rolling to her first WTA 1000 title since 2017 and carrying that momentum through five victories in New York—all without dropping a set.
Once undone by nerves, the 28-year-old has reclaimed the descriptor and turned it into a positive.
“I mean, to have nerve, it's normal,” she said. “That's mean you care about it. It's a lot of passion to play a sport, to play tennis. I mean, you play tennis because of the passion, because of the emotions it brings you. So, it also drives you to keep practicing, to go forward.
“Obviously sometime it's a little bit worse, but that's what drives me and that's how I want to keep enjoying things.”
What To Watch Out For
But can Garcia continue employing this new mindset against a ghost of Christmas past? Ons Jabeur has not only never lost to Garcia in two previous tour matches, the talented Tunisian also owned her when they were both juniors.
“It was really rare to play someone doing so much dropshots, slicing in the backhand,” recalled Garcia with a smile. “She was really, like, changing a lot the balls. It was really rare in the juniors. She was very tricky already to play.”
Garcia vows to view Jabeur as just another challenge, which is bad news for the No. 5 seed given how many challenges the French star has overcome in the last six months.
Should she withstand Jabeur’s endless variety, she would find herself on the precipice of a first Grand Slam singles title—and prove once and for all: never bet against Andy Murray.