US Open – Ladies’ singles – Caroline Garcia, legitimate candidate or runaway syndrome?

US Open - Ladies' singles - Caroline Garcia, legitimate candidate or runaway syndrome?
It’s inevitable, logical, terribly human – especially it seems in France – but also, somewhere, relatively dangerous. By winning the third WTA 1000 of his career in Cincinnati – but the first for five years and her double Wuhan / Beijing in 2017 -, thus definitively signing her act of rebirth after an already copious summer marked by two other titles in Bad Homburg and Warsaw without forgetting her eighth at Wimbledon, Caroline Garcia attracted towards her the light before the US Open. For which some now see her as a big outsider, even a favorite in the same way as Iga Swiatek, Simona Halep or Ons Jabeur.
It’s true that if we take into account the results of the last three months, the Lyonnaise, now up to 17th place in the world and especially 9th in Race, with Masters in sight – while we’re at it… -, is one of, if not THE hottest player of the moment. Ranked 79th at Roland-Garros, where she returned after two months of absence (foot) and immediately laid the first stone of her reconstruction by winning the double alongside Kristina Mladenovic, she therefore climbed more than 60 places in the standings, won three titles on three different surfaces and compiled 28 victories, including four over top 10 players (Swiatek, Pegula, Sabalenka and Sakkari). That’s as much in a month as in four years.

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A fortiori in comparison with the relative loss of speed of some of the best like Iga Swiatek, Ons Jabeur or Elena Rybakina (not to mention Maria Sakkari, Paula Badosa or Anett Kontaveit), not many people can boast of such a dynamic. Except perhaps a Simona Halep, who also signed her big comeback triumphing in Toronto, an increasingly regular Jessica Pegula, or the surprising Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia, also author of a deadly summer with titles in Nottingham and Birmingham plus her final in Toronto. A Haddad Maia that Garcia could also, after two relatively mild first rounds (on paper at least…), find in the 3rd round. Unless Bianca Andreescu, winner in New York in 2019, finds all her superb.

I was a nobody and now I’m a superstar

In short, it’s true, difficult not to ignite. And do not believe that this state of mind conducive to drawing plans on the comet is a uniquely French specialty. Interviewed on the set of TennisChannel in the wake of her coronation in Cincinnati, with her imposing and confusing trophy placed on the table in front of her, the Frenchwoman had to wait only a few minutes before being asked the angry question by the presenter and former American player Prakash Amritraj: so, the US Open?

Aggressive game, rediscovered mentality and adequate coaching: the ingredients for Garcia’s return

That’s what I said during the week: a few months ago, I was a nobody and now I’ve become a superstar, favorite of the US Open, took care to elude the Lyonnaise, aware of the dangers that await her. Obviously, I will arrive with a lot of confidence but hey, everything is back to zero, it’s a new tournament. It is possible that the girls are even more motivated against me. And then, from now on, they will know my style of play well. It will be a big challenge. But I can’t wait and above all, I hope to take full advantage of this US Open.

Comments similar to those made the next day by the male winner Borna Coric, author of an equally impressive revival – and undoubtedly even more surprising – but which no one, however, would venture to place as a favorite among the gentlemen. Nuance however: the Croatian, while considered a great hope a few years ago, did not reach 4th place in the world at 24, like Garcia in 2018, and may not have been perceived either. like a huge power crack, including by some of the game’s finest observers like Andy Murray who once predicted, let’s not forget, Caroline’s No. 1 spot when she was 17 and standing up to Maria Sharapova in the first round of Roland-Garros.

It was in 2011, the ascent continued willy-nilly for several years, then we know the rest: an inability to bear the weight of expectations, a difficulty in defining a true identity of game, a inevitably heartbreaking rupture with the father, repeated injuries (and probably not fortuitous) then a confidence that ends up flying away… After having started her reconstruction within the Rafa Nadal Academy, where she notably trained with the French-speaking Spaniard Gabriel Urpi, “Caro” ended up finding his personal and professional balance within a restricted but totally dedicated structure made up of a trainer, Bertrand Perret, and a physical trainer, Laura Legoupil.

Summarized like this, things seem simple and fast. But you have to imagine the moments of difficulty crossed by a player who has become a shadow of herself at times, to the point of being sucked into the abyss of the world rankings and tempted by the idea of ​​throwing everything away. “She has shown great resilience because, when you are as expected as she has been all these years, especially by the French media, and you can’t do it, it’s very complicated to manageadmires our consultant Mats Wilander. You have to be mentally strong not to sink. Me, I would have stopped tennis a long time ago if it hadn’t worked for years. So she has a real strength of character.”

Caroline Garcia takes on the US Open.

Credit: Imago

Wilander: “His trajectory reminds me of Wawrinka’s”

The former world No. 1, who himself admits to being on fire enough for the French player, is one of those who think Garcia can win the US Open. He even hopes so, since he also does not hide his affinities with a girl whom he qualifies as “Great”. And he even goes a little further by wondering if the 28-year-old Frenchwoman is not now doomed to establish herself among the best in the long term, in a process of late maturation similar to that of Stan Wawrinka, whose the talent had been known for a long time but who had waited until he was 28 (well, well…) to play his first Grand Slam semi-final, before winning his first major title shortly after, at the Australian Open, in 2014.

Caroline has always been very talented. She had everything: a solid physique, good movement, power, all the strokes of tennis… I didn’t understand why it didn’t work. Now, to me, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be a threat in the race for Grand Slam victory, believes the triple winner of Roland-Garros. His trajectory really reminds me of that of Stan Wawrinka who, too, exploited his potential very late. I feel like she’s strong mentally because she’s having fun on the court. Yes, if she keeps this mindset, she can win the US Open. And frankly, it would be one of the most exciting things for me to experience in the 15 years that I have been at Eurosport!

It’s true that we can talk about technique as much as we want, we can be amazed by the resolutely aggressive tennis developed in recent months by the Frenchwoman, the most striking thing in the end is perhaps her transformation outside of the court, where its blooming and its maturity burst the eyes. And it was a bit the same for Stan Wawrinka who, despite his brilliant tennis, could seem a little shy in his youth, before almost suddenly becoming a man, assertive, sure of himself and determined to take his destiny into his own hands. It was sweating off the court. And that was reflected on the court.

Cincinnati-US Open, an always delicate sequence

A similar fate is of course eminently desirable for the one who has also just become French No. 1 again. Now, from the US Open? Not everything speaks in her favor, starting with the fact that the American Grand Slam is historically not her favorite, the only one in any case where she has never reached the second week. We would add that we can not award a favorite status to a player who has never passed the quarter-finals in Major. But women’s tennis hardly seems to bother with such details for a few years, especially at the US Open where Emma Raducanu last year and Bianca Andreescu in 2019 had never even passed the eighth before triumphing. Even if, it is true, they were much younger.

Another statistic able to temper the enthusiasm: winning in Cincinnati is not a guarantee of success in New York, it even seems to be a little the opposite for a few years. In fact, only Kim Clijsters in 2010 and Serena Williams in 2014 have achieved the Cincinnati/US Open double. Calm down, then. By recalling also that Ashleigh Barty, also titled in Ohio last year and quite impressively, had fallen in the 3rd round in New York, physically (and mentally) exhausted. Another danger, inevitably, for Caroline, who has pulled the rope a lot in recent weeks.

But the main danger, as we all know, is rather linked to the expectations that will weigh on her shoulders, much stronger in New York than in all the tournaments in which she shone this summer. The person concerned easily admits that she never liked these external expectations. But she says to herself “ready” too, now to face it. Confronting it does not mean aligning with it. Rather set ambitions congruent with his own expectations, and not those of the public. However, when the Frenchwoman evokes the US Open, the word “pleasure“comes often, that of”favorite“Never. Perhaps it is better to align ourselves with her feelings: a player to follow, certainly. But a favorite, perhaps not. Not yet. While telling ourselves that we are not at the safe, on the other hand, from a pleasant surprise.

Caroline Garcia won the WTA 1000 from Cincinnati, Sunday August 21, 2022.

Credit: Getty Images

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