FRENCHWOMAN Caroline Garcia completed a fairytale 2022 season with a remarkable WTA Finals title in Fort Worth this week, defeating Aryna Sabalenka in the final, 7-6 6-4. The match, which capped off a sensational tournament all-round, saw Garcia earn her fourth title this year – 11th overall – and move into a career-high fourth in the world.
The 29-year-old finished second in the group stage of the WTA Finals event, defeating Coco Gauff and Daria Kasatkina either side of a loss to world number one Iga Swiatek, to book her place in the semi-finals. There, she took down the previously undefeated Maria Sakkari, before saluting over Sabalenka in a hard-fought final. The victory netted her more than $1.5 million USD and a whopping 1375 ranking points.
“It’s definitely a lot of giant happiness,” Garcia said post-match. “A crazy final, a lot of intensity on every point. Just really proud of the work we did through all the year. It was a great match, I really went for it. I’m really happy to win my biggest title.
There was not much wriggle room in the final, as the Frenchwoman was able to remain calm and win her fourth straight head-to-head match against Sabalenka, after the Belarussian went 2-0 up in their individual battle from two initial wins back in 2018. Garcia served 11 aces and won 79 and 58 per cent of her first and second serve points, overpowering Sabalenka who hit the four aces and won 69 per cent off her first serve.
To Sabalenka’s credit, she dug deep and won 70 per cent of her second serve points, something she would not normally do, especially off a 52 per cent clip. But not allowing Garcia an easy run at the title, fought hard and was only broken once. Unfortunately for her, that once was enough, and Garcia backed up her 7-4 first set tiebreaker win with a 6-4 second set triumph. Garcia said she felt at ease while out on on court.
“Just very happy about the mindset, to be really calm at every moment,” she said. “All the negative emotion doesn’t affect me, and that was really a big part of taking the few opportunities I had in the tiebreaker and the first game I broke her in the second.”
Garcia’s second half of 2022 featured wins at the WTA 250 Poland Open and WTA 1000 Western & Southern Open, before a run to the semi-finals at the US Open. In June, Garcia won at Bad Homburg, which triggered a huge end to the season, because at that point she was ranked 75th in the world. The 29-year-old will finish the year in fourth.
“Sometimes you are emotional or things don’t go your way,” Garcia said. “I mean, sometimes there is a big fight, so you have to find your way through it. Some points, where you cannot do anything. You just try to put in the return and to run as fast as you can to the other side.
“And that was one of the biggest points I improved. Today one of the most important things was to stay calm and jump on every opportunity.”