Caroline Garcia has been backed to win her first-ever Grand Slam title at this year’s US Open by Eurosport’s John McEnroe.
The 17th seed has hit a rich vein of form at just the right time, winning 13 consecutive games, and stunned Coco Gauff on Arthur Ashe Stadium to reach the last-four of the tournament.
Her top-quality performances have caught many by surprise, including McEnroe, who believed she had reached her ceiling at an all-time best of No. 4 in September 2018.
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So impressed has McEnroe been by Garcia that he is backing her to become the first Frenchwoman to win a major singles title since 2013.
Analysing her victory over Gauff, in which she finished with 24 winners, McEnroe said on the Eurosport pre-show: “When I was watching that I was like, ‘Was that Caroline Garcia?’ My goodness. I thought she had trouble with her serve? Until recently to me?
“She has a qualifier in Cincinnati, she was 70 in the world in Cincinnati. Now all of a sudden it looks like she’s going to win the whole tournament, so it's a metamorphosis that you don’t see very often with her.
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“Her standing that close on the return, and just crushing the ball. I just love her attitude right now, and I’ve got to hand it to her, she’s a former No.4 player in the world. I thought she’d reached that and maxed out.
“She was struggling to find anything for years actually, so I give her a lot of credit for stepping it up big time.”
Mats Wilander believes, in this form, Garcia is “nearly impossible” to stop.
I have to say that she’s extremely talented,” he said.
“When she plays the way she is playing now she's nearly impossible to beat, if she can keep it up. I always felt she was slightly too aggressive in her court precision and she was taking too many risks on the return of serve but obviously playing a lot of doubles has helped her.
“She told me the other day that her coach - who is not her father anymore - actually said ‘If you like to play aggressive, be even more aggressive. Stop kicking the serve in and start going for your serve’, and that’s what she’s doing.
“I can’t expect her to keep this level for the next three or four years because it’s risky but she’s so athletic as well.
“It’s so, so interesting to see somebody blossom ten years after she was supposed to.”
Wilander believes that Gauff can still hold her head high despite the defeat to Garcia, but admitted there is always “room for improvement”.
Gauff’s development has come on significantly this year, reaching her maiden Grand Slam final at the French Open, and she had been tipped by many – including Eurosport expert Kim Clijsters – to go all the way in her home Grand Slam.
“[Gauff]’s had an amazing year in the Grand Slams,” said Wilander.
“Honestly, she was up against a woman who is playing tennis that - I can even believe how you can play tennis like Garcia did last night. She hits the ball so early and it doesn’t really matter how fast you are because at some point you’re not going to be able to cover the court.
“In general she had a great tournament. In general she’s making improvements all the time in my book, and a match like this most probably will be a really good lesson - ‘How do I need to serve against a player who returns as aggressive as Garcia’? More first serves maybe?
“But there’s room for improvement, and I think she’s making them every time.
“Americans should be very proud and I’m proud to call myself a former pro when you have attitudes like Coco Gauff on the court. Love it!”
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