Rising Stars Of 2014: Caroline
Published April 15, 2014 12:14
It was about three years ago when most people watched her play for the first time. On Court Philippe Chatrier - one of the most historic courts in the world - a 17-year-old, 188th-ranked wildcard played lights out for a set and a half against one of the WTA's bigging legends at the French Open, cracking huge serves and groundstrokes and running everything down to build a shocking 63 41 lead.
Sharapova was understandably impressed: "We will be seeing her for many more years," the former No.1 said. "She has a big game and many strengths, and I think she has a bright future ahead of her."
One of the ATP World Tour's biggest names sent a very famous tweet about her during that match too:
The girl sharapova is playing is going to be number one in the world one day caroline garcia, what a player u heard it here first— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) May 26, 2011
Those expectations may have weighed heavily on her. She wouldn't win another WTA-level main draw match for another 16 months - but in 2013 she started to put all the pieces together again, breaking the Top 100 players in the world for the first time and finishing the season in there as well, at No.75.
And 2014 has seen her climb to even higher heights: she reached her first WTA semifinal at Acapulco, scoring her first Top 20 win over Eugenie Bouchard along the way; she pushed World No.1 Serena Williams to the limits in a dramatic third round match in Miami; and just a few days ago she captured her first WTA title at Bogotá, recording her first Top 10 win over Jelena Jankovic in the title match.
"You have to give your opponent credit - she raised her level a lot and started serving much better in the second set," said Bouchard, who was up a set and a break on Garcia before falling, 36 64 61.
"In the second set she was just going for it and really took it to another level."
"She played great. She's obviously a really good player," said Williams, who edged Garcia, 64 46 64.
"It was already my third time playing Serena, so maybe she was a little less intimidating than the previous times," Garcia said. "I just tried to forget it's Serena Williams, forget that she's won how many Grand Slams, and just be me and just play. And I'm happy with what I did. It was a good match.
"She's a great player and she's always fighting a lot. I think it was a good test for me."
The tennis she played against the World No.1 seemingly made the trip to Bogotá, and Garcia is now on the verge of the Top 50 for the first time - she rose from No.74 to No.51 after that maiden WTA title.
She also became the first player to sweep the singles and doubles titles at the same WTA tournament since the World No.1 - Williams was the last player to do it, at the London Olympics back in 2012.
Could Garcia's home Grand Slam - which is right around the corner - be the site of her next big move?