Garcia guides France into United Cup semis

FRANCE survived an almighty scare from underdogs Norway early in the 2024 United Cup quarter final before overcoming the Scandinavian nation 2-1 in Sydney last night. The win – which was spearheaded by top 20 WTA Tour player Caroline Garcia set the French up with a semi-final date with Poland.

Garcia – ranked 20th in the world but is a former top five talent – took on the lowly ranked Malene Helgo who sits outside the top 500. Though the Norwegian was a heavy underdog in the match, she took it right up to Garcia after a slow start, forcing the Frenchwoman into back-to-back tiebreakers.

By comparison, the 30-year-old Garcia has won 11 WTA Tour titles and close to $17 million USD, while Helgo is yet to breakthrough as a 24-year-old, with a career prizemoney of $91,000. But on Ken Rosewall Arena that mattered little, as Helgo shocked the favourites by taking out the second set in a nail-biting 8-6 tiebreaker.

That levelled the score from when Garcia won 6-2 in the first set and looked in control. Though the Frenchwoman served seven aces in the second set and won 77 and 69 per cent of her first and second serve points, Helgo held her own and saved all three break points against her. Then in the tiebreak when the pressure ramped up, she gave as good as she got and closed it out to force it to a decider.

The third set was arguably Helgo’s best, out-serving Garcia in terms of her efficiency, winning 78 per cent of her first serve points compared to Garcia’s 65 per cent, though she struggled far more off her second serve (45 to 71 per cent). Still, it went to a tiebreaker yet again, and though it could have gone either way, Garcia’s extra experience in crunch games stood the test, and she won it 7-5 in the decider to take an overall victory of 6-2 6-7 7-6 in two hours and 33 minutes.

Garcia said she was impressed by the way Helgo played, with her unpredictability proving challenging.

“It was a crazy match. Malene was a player I didn’t know but she just hit the ball so well,” Garcia said post-match. “I went through all the emotions out there and I had to find a way through. Today it was almost too much, but in the end I got the point.

“It’s only the third match of the season and I’m exhausted already.”

That win proved crucial as Casper Ruud made light work of Garcia’s compatriot in Adrian Mannarino, Displaying contrasting styles, Ruud smashed 10 aces and won a ridiculous 88 per cent of his first serve points compared to Mannarino’s 61 per cent, en route to a 6-1 6-4 victory. Ruud only needed an hour and 17 minutes on court to close out the win, not facing a break point and instead breaking Mannarino three times.

Stepping back on court for the mixed doubles, Garcia teamed up with world number 11 in the format, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, while Ruud took his place alongside Norwegian doubles specialist Ulrikke Eikeri. Though the latter were up for the fight, the extra experience for Garcia and Roger-Vasselin again proved the difference, as they won 7-5 6-4, clinching the quarter final tie and booking a place in the semi-final against Poland.

“It’s so nice. We play an individual sport and a few times in the year we have the chance to represent Team France,” Garcia said. “We are… very far from home and it’s nice in the city already we can see there are so many French. It’s so great to have that many… fans here cheering us on and it’s part of the United Cup I think.”


The fourth quarter final takes place in Sydney, with Greece taking on Germany from 5:30pm. Greece topped its group with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Canada after a shock loss to Chile, while Germany came runner-up to France in its group.

The singles action is set to be outstanding, with Maria Sakkari facing off against Angelique Kerber, while Stefanos Tsitsipas locks horns with Alexander Zverev. The winner of the tie goes on to face Australia in the semi-final on Saturday, leaving just four teams remaining in the competition.

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