Donning a cowboy hat and beaming smile Caroline Garcia was more than happy when speaking after her 7-6(4) 6-4 WTA Finals victory over Aryna Sabalenka, but even then one question gave her pause for thought.
It was regarding how she has transformed from world No. 74 at the start of 2022 into a champion on all surfaces, with the Frenchwoman sealing an indoor title at the season-ending finals in Fort Worth – which she calls the “biggest title” of her career to date – having also won on grass, clay and outdoor hard-courts this year.
“Who knows?” she said initially. “Maybe on very slow courts it will not suit me that much, but I really try to go on what I do the best. Obviously being aggressive, going for my shots, we had great capability with the team to really adjust to the different surfaces and physically feel good on the every surface. It was really important.
Garcia downs Sabalenka to clinch WTA Finals and cap off remarkable comeback season
“We prepared really well every tournament to be focused on what I wanted to do. With the results coming it was obviously easier to believe in it. In this tournament, from one match to the next, I played better and better.”
In the final against Sabalenka, No. 6 seed Garcia won the moments that mattered. After a first set without any break-point opportunities, she sealed the tie-break 7-4 from 2-0 down.
Two Sabalenka double faults in the breaker had gifted her the set, and shortly after Garcia converted her first break point in the opening game of the second set.
- Garcia downs Sabalenka to clinch WTA Finals and cap off remarkable comeback season
- Swiatek wants WTA Finals stability, Gauff urged to 'take a breather' - WTA Finals Diary
- 'It will be special to be a part of' - Draper ready for NextGen bow
From there, Garcia kept her nose in front, with only the 10th and final game of the set going to deuce before she sealed the title with her second match point.
Caroline Garcia of France poses with the champions trophy after defeating Aryna Sabalenka
Image credit: Getty Images
“It’s difficult to pick [a standout moment]. Today was such an intense final, lots of winners, especially in the first set. The service games were at least two aces per game, or at least it felt like it,” added Garcia, only the second French player to win the WTA Finals after Amelie Mauresmo in 2005.
“I’m just very proud the way I kept my mind calm. I really focused one point at a time, one game at a time, and then in the second set I got the break super early. But obviously it was still a long way, I felt like I played three sets to play one set, but I managed my emotions and focused one point at a time. It makes a difference.”
On the nervy tie-break, she added: “First set was no break points, no opportunities at all. Even if she was not serving first serves, the second serve was super fast and bouncy. I couldn’t do much. The points she gave me at 2-0 helped me for sure.
“Then, I went a little bit on the return, I was like ‘Let’s try something! Who knows what is going to happen?’ Waiting was not doing much. I just tried to move a little bit earlier. I did a return slice, something I never do, and it paid off.”
Garcia ends the year back at world No. 4, a joint career-high that she first reached in 2018.
Given she started 2022 as the world No. 74, it shows how far she has come, and though a Grand Slam evaded her – despite a best-ever display when reaching the semis at the US Open – she did not lose a single final all year.
“I think it’s super important to keep improving,” said Garcia, who won Bad Homburg, the Poland Open and the Western & Southern Open as well as the WTA Finals.
“If you don’t move forwards you move backwards. That’s not something we want to do in the team. I did it a couple of years ago and didn’t really enjoy the ride.
“Today was a solid match. A few mistakes here and there, but not too many. There are things I can still improve. It’s a challenge, you always want to challenge yourself in the sport.
“I think this year was so many lessons and so many experiences. It started okay, with some good wins, but I couldn’t manage to back them up with other good wins. But my team behind me were really focused on which way we wanted to play.
“It was not paying off all the time, but they told me if I kept going in that way it would pay off. That was really the mentality. I’m not too sure we thought it would pay off that much.”
Sabalenka stuns world No. 1 Swiatek to reach final at WTA Finals
Garcia cruises past Sakkari in straight sets to reach final of WTA Finals
Share this article