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Caroline Garcia conquers Aryna Sabalenka, claims WTA Finals crown in Texas
The flying Frenchwoman will return to the world’s Top 4 after winning the biggest title of her career, defeating rival Sabalenka in two tight sets.
Published Nov 08, 2022
WATCH: Garcia fell to the court after thwarting Sabalenka in a tense final game to serve out the match.
FORT WORTH, Texas—Caroline Garcia, Rodeo Queen. The Frenchwoman arrived in Texas decked out in cowboy hat and boots and leaves the Lone Star State with the biggest title of her career, narrowly defeating Aryna Sabalenka, 7-6 (4), 6-4 in a power-tennis affair that brought the Dickies Arena crowd to its feet.
The match was played on razor-thin margins as both women put down near-perfect serve performances—the first set featured zero break points—but Garcia was far more efficient, striking 11 total aces to keep Sabalenka at bay and become the first French WTA Finals champion since Amélie Mauresmo in 2005. At 29, she is also the oldest champion since Serena Williams lifted the trophy in 2014.
"To all the people I have been able to share the past up and to winning this trophy," Garcia said on court with the trophy. "I met a lot of people along the way; some people are here, and some met me when I was a 12-year-old little girl. I took memories and positives from all those experiences. All these experiences made me a better person and a better player."
Garcia last played the WTA Finals in 2017, in the midst of a surge that took her to a career-high ranking of No. 4, seemingly fulfilling the prediction made by Andy Murray when he watched her nearly defeat Maria Sharapova as a teenager at the 2011 French Open. The Saint-Germain-en-Laye native will return to that career-high on Tuesday after outlasting the No. 7 seed in one hour and 41 minutes on WTA Finals Stadium Court.
Injuries and inconsistencies kept Garcia from returning to the WTA’s season-ending championships for a full five years, but put herself into contention after a revelatory summer swing that earned her three titles and a first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open.
She shook off a sudden split with coach Bertrand Perret and qualified second in the Tracy Austin Group by winning a third-set tiebreaker over Daria Kasatkina. Back in the semifinals at last, Garcia played flawless tennis to stop an unbeaten Maria Sakkari and better her 2017 finish at the WTA Finals.
Though she began the 2022 season ranked higher than Garcia, Sabalenka looked like an even bigger longshot to reach the Finals when she began the year struggling with her serve and confidence, compiling multiple matches with 20+ double faults through a brutal first quarter.
The No. 7 seed rebounded on clay and cemented her "miracle" spot in the Top 8 with a second straight semifinal in Flushing Meadows, snapping a four-match losing streak to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek to complete a sweep of the world's Top 3—having beaten world No. 2 Ons Jabeur and world No. 3 Jessica Pegula earlier in the week—and reach Monday’s championship match.
After admirably serving from behind to force a tiebreaker, Sabalenka looked to have the edge when she opened the Sudden Death with a hair-raising rally. But Garcia rebounded in style and won six straight points before claiming the set off an ill-timed double fault.
"Caroline, I really hate you right now," Sabalenka joked during the trophy ceremony, "but you played unbelievable tennis tonight, and not only tonight. This year, you played unbelievable tennis, so congrats on the results so far. I’m very sure there’s many more to come, and I hope we play more finals. We’ll see what happens in the next one!"
Sabalenka’s late dip continued early in the second, allowing Garcia to claim the match’s first break. She held on for dear life even as Sabalenka threatened to break back in the final game, striking a brilliant backhand to save championship point. An unreturnable serve quickly brought up a second for Garcia, who converted as Sabalenka pulled on last forehand wide.