In Cincinnati, nothing seems able to stop his flight, the second in a career that has experienced significant turbulence over the past four years. Under the gaze of a replica of the Eiffel Tower that seems to inspire her this week, Caroline Garcia qualified for her first WTA 1000 final in almost five years by dominating Aryna Sabalenka (6-2, 4-6, 6-1) Saturday. Never has a player from the qualifications achieved such a performance in a tournament of this category.
Stronger than the American public, in support of local Jessica Pegula on Friday evening (6-1, 7-5), the 28-year-old Frenchwoman also got the better of, not without pain and grimace, the endless rain interruptions in the middle of a semi-final that she had started perfectly.
The game switches after the first interruption
Imperial in service (no point lost behind her first ball during the first set) and ultra-aggressive on the return, in line with her recent outings, the Lyonnaise was in the process of crushing the 7th in the world and her broad shoulders to lead 6-2, 1-1, when a black sheet suddenly covered the Lindner Tennis Center.
There followed a 2h30 wait, during which the showers followed one another before the start of a storm which prompted the organizers to invite the spectators to “to seek shelter”. Garcia stayed in her bubble, sitting alone in an armchair in the players’ lounge, her nose in her phone, before eating and then resuming her warm-up. But when he returned to the court, the match changed.
Much less precise in the service with a percentage of firsts in free fall, the 35th in the world suffered what, until then, she had subjected to the others at “Cincy”: jostled by the heavy strikes of Sabalenka on the return, forced to retreat , she found herself in a defensive position that did not suit her qualities, she who is never better than when she dictates the exchanges with both feet in the field.
More than 6 hours after the first point, Garcia is doing well
Garcia gave up his commitment three times in a row, the same number as since the start of the tournament. After casting a few worried glances at her clan, where her trainer Bertrand Perret and her physio Laura Legoupil were encouraging her, she appealed, 5-4 in favor of the Belarusian, to the physio who manipulated her then bandaged her fore- left arm.
At first cautious, especially on the backhand side where she sometimes seemed embarrassed, the Frenchwoman could again count on her first ball to turn her back at the start of the third set. At 2-1, Sabalenka made several big mistakes and Garcia rushed into the breach to score the break. But like nearly four hours earlier, the rain stopped her in her tracks, 3-1, 30-15 in her favor in the deciding set.
This time, the interruption lasted “only” 1h35. Upon her return to the field, Garcia, still bandaged in her left forearm, decided to take matters into her own hands with maximum risk-taking. She made several mistakes, had a break point to defend, but saved it with courage and confirmed her break in advance.
More proactive than her opponent, she pushed Sabalenka to the fault, first in the exchange, then on a double fault which gave her a double break in advance. In the process, she saved three balls from the first break thanks to her service. Yet another forehand fault by the Belarusian sent him to the final.
On Sunday, weather permitting, Garcia will face the Czech Petra Kvitova who had eliminated Madison Keys (6-7, 6-4, 6-3) earlier in the day. The Frenchwoman will aim for the biggest title of her career since the one won in Beijing in October 2017.