Caroline Garcia feels like she’s finally found her way in tennis after battling past Coco Gauff and into her maiden Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open.
Eleven years after Andy Murray predicted Garcia would become world number one when she led Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros as a 17-year-old, the Frenchwoman is in the form of her life.
Gauff also had a great summer, but she had no response to Garcia’s unerring ball control as she meets her former junior rivals Ons Jabeur after a 6-3 6-4 win in the semi-finals.
“It was definitely challenging,” Garcia said of the expectations that weighed on her shoulders. “When it was 2011 after the Sharapova game, a lot of pressure came out of nowhere. I was 150, 200 in the world, 17 years old. My game wasn’t ready.
“The weeks after that I tried to play at the same level, but it wasn’t possible for me. It was tough because people expected a lot. But the game, I wasn’t ready for any of it. It took me some time to get to the top step by step.
“End of 2017, 2018 was a great year, lots of success. We made some mistakes. I really hope and I think we learn from this. Now it’s a new year where we try to learn from every challenge. I think I’ll grow up a lot with all the challenges on and off the pitch.”
Garcia reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal five years ago and finished fourth in the world in 2018, but since then there have been far more downs than ups.
In mid-June she was 75th when she headed to the grass courts of Bad Homburg in Germany and claimed her first title in three years.
Coached by her father Louis Paul for most of her career, Garcia has thrived under new coach Bertrand Perret and has come to New York buoyed by two more titles – on clay in Warsaw and the big hard court event in Cincinnati .
Back in the top 20, Garcia rode that wave at Flushing Meadows and that win made it 13 straight wins.
What sets the French apart is her determination to win the ball early. Gauff hit a serve at 128 mph in the second round, but Garcia got up on or inside the baseline to return and drill the ball into the corners or at her opponent’s feet.
“I’m just trying to focus on my game, what I like to do, how I play tennis best,” Garcia said. “The path is now very clear, in which direction I have to go, under stress, under pressure. I’m just trying to follow that path.”
Gauff bounced back after losing the first four games but couldn’t really make life uncomfortable for Garcia, she impeccably dug out of the tight moments.
At 18, time is very much on Gauff’s side and she will be cracking the top 10 for the first time, having followed her first Slam final at the French Open with a first quarterfinal in New York.
The teenager said: “Your level was great. I knew it was going to be great. I feel like I didn’t play at the level I needed to come out with the win today. Overall, I’m very proud of myself at this tournament. But I’m hungry for more. So maybe next year.”
Previously, Jabeur became the first African woman to reach the semifinals of the US Open in the open era with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over Serena Williams’s conqueror Ajla Tomljanovic.
There were moments of frustration for the Tunisian, who threw her racquet several times but fought back from 5-3 down in the second set.
Jabeur said with a smile: “I really apologize for my behavior. I wanted to stay calm, but the bat kept slipping out of my hand.”
After reaching the Wimbledon final, she is close to a Maiden Slam title again and said: “I definitely believe in myself more. I made it to the final at Wimbledon so I think I can do it another time. I know that I have it in me that I can win a Grand Slam.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/tennis/caroline-garcia-coco-gauff-ons-jabeur-maria-sharapova-andy-murray-b2161404.html Caroline Garcia finds her way in tennis and reaches her first Grand Slam semifinal