WUHAN, China - Caroline Garcia is set to rise to a career-high No.15 ranking on Monday after a stunning week that saw her win the biggest title of her career at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open. En route to her fourth career title, the 23-year-old defeated former No.1 Angelique Kerber, last year's runner-up Dominika Cibulkova, and in-form Ekaterina Makarova, and then came back from a set and a break down to beat Ashleigh Barty 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 6-2 to win her first title of the season.
Garcia has enjoyed a strong turnaround this season after suffering a debilitating back injury in the spring that forced her off the tour for a month. From her first tournament at the Australian Open through the Italian Open in Rome, Garcia posted an 11-10 record. Then, sparked by a semifinal in Strasbourg and an inspired run to her first Roland Garros quarterfinal, Garcia is 30-10 since, having made the quarterfinals or better at 7 of her last 11 events.
Garcia's surge up the rankings puts her in strong position to qualify for her second WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai and it also gives her an outside chance to qualify for her first BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
Garcia joins the WTA Insider Podcast to talk through her breakthrough season and provide perspective on just what it's like to grow up under the pressure of being one of France's great hopes for the future, a talent so notable that Andy Murray just had to call it out.
Listen to the full interview below:
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WTA Insider: In April you were struggling with a back injury. You couldn't bend over to put on your socks. Flash forward a few months and you've won a Premier 5 tournament, the biggest tournament of your career. Did this seem possible back then?
Garcia: When your body is making you struggle this much, there was so much frustration because I couldn't do anything. I couldn't perform on the court. Even to not even be able to live a normal life is so frustrating, and I could not do anything to make it better. I could not find the solution.
But we kept trying, we kept asking around, we tried different things, and slowly things got better. There were some difficult days sometimes, I couldn't understand why, but some days were worse than others. But it was a lot of work and I'm not very patient sometimes. I was so frustrated because I couldn't see the end of it.
It's not done yet. I still have work to do, but my mom and my dad really helped me understand how it was working. It was a hard process but they really helped me a lot through all this period of time, they helped me understand it and gave me their experience from the outside. They helped me grow. Slowly my back got better, I got my confidence back in my body, and I could perform on court. That's the most important for me so far.
WTA Insider: Was the French Open the turning point for you this year?
Garcia: For sure the French Open helped me a lot. I tried to approach this tournament a little bit differently than I used to do. It helped me in the everyday process. It's something that I have to keep doing, but it's definitely a change for me, the way I get ready for my matches. Less expectation, more focus on my game. It makes all the difference and it gets the tension away. Even if it's there, I just accept it and keep going.
WTA Insider: After the match you ran over to your dad and gave him a big hug. It looked like you were crying. What was going through your mind there?
Garcia: We are having this adventure for a lot of years now, since my mom stayed home. We are staying strong and all this year made us even stronger I think. Just to see him happy and proud, that's the best for me. Sometimes you don't ask for more.
You just want to make your parents proud of you, that's why you work very hard. They made difficult choices in the past and I'm happy they can see me perform well on the court and win titles. If I won it, we won it all together. We are a team living an adventure. There are some people who have always been behind us. My first coach, we are still very close. It's a lot of people around who are here in all the moments, bad and better, and it makes the difference. You know they are behind you watching and that's the best thing.
WTA Insider: I asked you the other day whether you thought people might have written you off after maybe not achieving your potential earlier. You said it wasn't easy to be 17-years-old and grow up under that pressure - that Andy Murray tweet, growing up with the FFT. Talk about the journey from that match against Maria Sharapova on Court Suzanne Lenglen to here.
Garcia: It's a journey. Sometimes it's not a straight line. Sometimes there's more of a curve for some people than for others. Sometimes you have to go back to come back. There are some ups and downs but it's an adventure I like to live, even if sometimes I want it to be a little bit faster for sure. But it's my adventure, it's the way it is, and I cannot do anything to change it. I try my best every day.
Of course there was a lot of pressure back then. I was not really expecting it actually. I was not ready at this time, my game was not ready, my head was not even ready. It took me awhile to grow up. It's difficult. But all the experiences that I had, I enjoyed every single minute of it. Of course sometimes when you have bad results or you cannot make the step faster, people don't believe in you anymore. But the most important people kept believing in me anyway and that's only what I remember. I want to thank all these people and I don't care about the other ones anymore.
WTA Insider: This is the biggest title won by a French woman since Marion Bartoli won Wimbledon in 2013. That has to feel pretty good.
Garcia: It's always nice to win a title, doesn't really matter how big it is. A title is a title. To finish the week undefeated, it's amazing in tennis. It's not happening every week unless your name is Serena Williams.
Women's French tennis has had difficult years in the past. But it's a new generation coming and we heard some disappointing stuff about us, like we are not as good as the ones before us. But sometimes you have to understand: Amelie Mauresmo won Grand Slams, Mary Pierce, Marion Bartoli did. Sometimes you have ups and down between generations, but we are coming slowly. I'm making my way. It's great to see that there are people still believing in ourselves. We are not as many as the French men, but we are here and you have to count on us.