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Caroline Garcia strikes relaxed pose ahead of US Open after resurgent summer, Cincinnati title
The former world No. 4 credits an extended break to heal a nagging foot injury with helping her to hit the ground running and rediscover the form she last enjoyed in 2017.
Published Aug 28, 2022
WATCH: Garcia spoke to the media after winning her third title of the 2022 season at the Western & Southern Open.
NEW YORK—No one opens the door for a native New Yorker, least of all Caroline Garcia, as I attempt to preach the virtues of my city that never sleeps.
“You’ll have a lot of work to do with me,” jokes Garcia, who hails from Lyon by way of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. “It’s a lot of people, energy, noise. You really have to try and focus a lot, and focus is not an unlimited energy, so you have to deal with it. It’s fun for two-three weeks, max.”
Luckily for Garcia, two weeks is all she’ll need to make good on the potential famously first scouted by none other than Andy Murray when she nearly ousted Maria Sharapova as a teenager at the 2011 French Open.
“It’s always exciting to come and play a Slam, definitely with the last couple of weeks being positive for me and playing some good tennis. I’ve gotten some confidence, I’m looking forward to preparing in the best way that I can, and I hope to do good.”
The former world No. 4 arrives in New York to a wide-open women’s field but nonetheless among the favorites after roaring to her first WTA 1000 title since 2017 at the Western & Southern Open, a position that was admittedly uncomfortable for the Frenchwoman when she first cracked the Top 10 with back-to-back wins in Wuhan and Beijing.
“I haven’t managed it very well in the past. Hopefully, I will learn and my team will help figure out how we can improve this.”
To win the French Open builds a lot of confidence, and it was a lot of fun as well. I was trying to play an aggressive game, which is the same as how I want to play in singles. So, it gave me confidence to keep it going that way. Caroline Garcia
Her team, which was long helmed by father Louis-Paul, is now led by Bertrand Perret and physio, Laura Legoupil who, together with the 28-year-old, decided to take an indefinite break following this year’s Miami Open to address a lingering foot injury.
For Garcia, who has never taken much time away from tennis, it was a major adjustment, but one worth making in the name of long-term success.
“It was just too much, being injured for the last couple of years and there always being something wrong,” she recalls in her inimitable French inflection. “Mentally, I was not able to handle it anymore so we had to do things the way we thought was best: taking a rest and coming back when I felt better and the foot was healthy again. I couldn’t practice and my tennis was getting lower and lower, and I wasn’t getting any fun out of it anymore.
“It’s not easy, especially when you are used to playing everything and you decide to take this step because the body is shut down. I had to accept it and do things as best we can, even if we didn’t always know which way to go. Sometimes you have to choose a path and take it 100%.”
Along the way, the path took her back to former doubles partner Kristina Mladenovic, with whom she had publicly fallen out in early 2017 in spite of Grand Slam success the previous season.
“We learned a lot, and grew up,” she explains. “We focused on what was important and we knew we could play well together with our matching styles. Everyone grows up, gets experience, and now we can just focus on the tennis, what we like, what we can do, and it paid off.”
Taking wild cards into Roland Garros, the duo captured a second title at home, rallying from a set down to defeat eventual doubles No. 1 Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula.
“When we came back and won the French Open in doubles with Kristina, it was obviously a big surprise for everyone—even us! To win the French Open builds a lot of confidence, and it was a lot of fun as well. I was trying to play an aggressive game, which is the same as how I want to play in singles. So, it gave me confidence to keep it going that way.”
Garcia indeed translated that momentum onto the singles court and across all surfaces, winning titles on grass and clay—with a run to Wimbledon’s fourth round in between—before pulling an Emma Raducanu and winning Cincinnati as a qualifier, upsetting Maria Sakkari, Jessica Pegula, and Aryna Sabalenka en route to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Petra Kvitova.
More notable than the wins themselves is the way she’s winning, gritting out three-setters with Sakkari and Sabalenka after dropping the second, resetting to play explosive tennis in the decider. Infamous for nerves not unlike fellow Saint-Germain-en-Laye native Amélie Mauresmo, Garcia is finding physical freedom has also unlocked her mind.
“I was back healthy, so I was able to practice and do things both on and off court. Obviously, your confidence is higher when you can trust your body.”
The question remains whether that trust can carry her on the game’s biggest stage without a doubles partner by her side. Garcia’s answer appears to be one that focuses only on the task at hand—no easy feat given the growing chatter about her title chances.
“I think I got experience from 2018 about press and external pressure, so we’ll try and we’re already trying to make things a little bit different. It’s always a good challenge, though to be challenged from the outside is always tougher. I’ve been feeling relaxed the last couple weeks and not focusing too much on what other people are thinking about my game. The plan is to try and do the same, be relaxed and only play tennis.”
Unmoved by the bright lights of New York, don’t expect too much to distract Garcia.
“The calm of your room after a day here,” she says, gesturing to the hustle and bustle of the US Open grounds, “it’s nice.”