June 7, 2023

By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday, November 8, 2022

For a few years on tour, Caroline Garcia was a shell of herself. A talented former World No.4 in 2018, the Frenchwoman had gone relatively stagnant, hampered by nagging injuries that didn’t allow her to play her favored formidable brand of tennis.

Then the confidence suffered – and the clarity. But in 2022, a season that started with Garcia ranked at No.74, everything changed.

Tennis Express

Garcia got healthy, hiring physiotherapist Laura Legoupil and coach Bertrand Perret (the pair recently parted but his contributions are undeniable) and rediscovered what made her happy – and effective – as a tennis player.

It took time, to be sure, but by summer the rise of Caro took hold and the tried-and-true #FlyWithCaro became a trending hashtag on Twitter pretty much every week.

Garcia soared through the second half of the season, winning more matches (36) than any other player, and racked up titles in Bad Homburg, Warsaw, Cincinnati and – her coup de grâce – the WTA Finals.

The victory in Fort Worth sets Garcia at No.4 in the year-end rankings, back to where she once climbed in 2018.

She talked about her journey during the week at the WTA Finals, where she showed off her streamlined game and mental toughness as well. Garcia, who was two points from missing out on the semis during her winner-take-all round robin match with Daria Kasatkina, has made strides mentally as well as tactically.

A lot of her success seems to come from the fact that she is enjoying the sport once again.

“I was starting to feel very old and I was not able to train and enjoy tennis anymore, which was very frustrating,” she said this week in Fort Worth. “And we did a very good job, like every day, little by little, trying to improve and when it was tough.”

In March, when Garcia had to retire in Miami, suffering a foot issue that had been plaguing her, she says she felt ready to give up. She says her physiotherapist Legoupil made all the difference at that point.

“When we had to stop after Miami – I was a bit negative,” she said. “I was like ‘I’m never again going to get out of that.’ She and all the team were very positive with me, thinking one day at a time, [showing] me that every little improvement was good and we were going in the good direction. So I think that was the most important.”

Garcia, who became the first Frenchwoman to win the prestigious WTA Finals title since Amelie Mauresmo in 2005, like many in the punditry, can’t quite believe how far she has come, so fast.

“Literally one year ago I was not in the best shape of my life,” she said. “I was feeling a lot of years on tour. It was really day by day work and little progress, little improvements, which first of all give me back my confidence in my body, to be able to train to be able to play and sometimes you have some good lessons; I was not able to play my game for so long, as I need to be aggressive need to be explosive.

“And to be able to do this again, I really enjoy it even more. And it’s working. I’m enjoying it and I still think I can improve so much.”

On Monday night Garcia put forth a performance for the ages to win a riveting final with Sabalenka, never facing a break point in a nip-and-tuck battle. She faced scoreboard pressure from the hard-hitting Belarusian the whole way, but never blinked.

“I’m just really proud of the way I kept my mind calm and really focused one point at a time, one game at a time,” she said.

“I think this year there were so many lessons and so many experiences,” Garcia continued. “It started okay, I got some good wins here and there but couldn’t manage to back them up with some other good wins. My team behind me were really focused on which way we wanted to play, how we wanted to play, and it was not paying off all the time, but they told me that if I kept going in that way it will pay off one day or another, so that was really the mentality: keep going that way and it will pay off one day.

“I’m not really sure we were thinking it was going to pay off that much actually, but I definitely like it. It’s everyday work. Sometimes it’s tough, but you can learn from everything.”

Now that she’s finished the season at No.4, Garcia plans to keep pushing for better things. Even though she has parted ways with Perret, the man who helped her see the light and embrace her aggressive nature once again, the lessons have been learned and the mantra is clear.

“I think it’s super important to keep improving,” she said. “You know, we said ‘If you don’t move forward, you move backward.’ So that’s not something we want to do in the team and I don’t want to do it, either. I did it a couple years ago, and didn’t really enjoy the ride.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.