The Pick August 19 2022-1

It had gone a bit under the radar heading into the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, but world No. 35 Caroline Garcia has quietly gotten her game back. The Frenchwoman comes into this semifinal meeting with world No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka having won 11 of her last 12 matches. She now finds herself as a small underdog against a player that is ranked a lot higher than her, and Garcia's recent play suggests you shouldn’t pay too much attention to the number next to her name here.

In Cincinnati alone, Garcia has earned wins over world No. 3 Maria Sakkari, world No. 33 Elise Mertens and world No. 8 Jessica Pegula. And two tournaments ago, in Warsaw, she knocked off world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and eventually went on to capture the title. Garcia was once a Top 10 player on the WTA Tour, and a competitor people expected to challenge for trophies on the biggest stages. But the 28-year-old hit a rough patch from 2019 to 2021, and it never quite looked like she was going to get herself back to the upper echelon. Well, now it appears she’s right where she used to be, as she is 31-16 in tour-level matches since the start of 2022. Garcia's 66.0% winning percentage this year is the second-highest of her career, and she’s going to come into this meeting with Sabalenka with some sky-high confidence.


One thing to keep an eye on when these two clash is that Garcia has been serving out of her mind. Obviously, that is capable of changing at any moment, but the Frenchwoman has only been broken three times in Cincinnati thus far. And all in all, her service numbers this year are really impressive, as her 79.5% hold percentage is the highest of her career. When you compare that to Sabalenka, whose hold percentage is a career-low 69.5%, it’s hard not to feel that this match is Garcia’s to lose.

While Sabalenka might have an edge in raw power in this one, it’s Garcia that will be more trustworthy with the ball on her racquet. With that in mind, it’s hard not to see the value in backing her as an underdog in this one. The qualifier should see more opportunities to break serve than her opponent, and that’s really all you can ask for when betting on a plus-money player.

It's also worth noting that Garcia did win in straight sets in their most recent meeting, a match at 2018 Zhuhai. This clash is also one that falls into our fool’s gold category, which has been a winning angle for The Pick for a while now. To the untrained eye, seeing a player as good as Sabalenka with such favorable odds against a player like Garcia would be a quick bet. But it looks a little too good to be true, and that’s because the oddsmakers know they can’t hang too favorable of a number on Garcia.

The Pick: Garcia To Win (+115)