WUHAN, China - Caroline Garcia survived a tense second set to knock out No.7 seed Dominika Cibulkova, 6-3, 7-5, reaching her second Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open quarterfinal in four years.
"It’s hard to believe it was only two sets," Garcia told WTA Insider after the match, "because there was a lot of intensity in every point and in every game. So many games lasted for a couple of minutes with deuces.
"With Dominika, there’s always a lot of intensity from her, and she’s a great fighter, even when she’s down. I’m very happy with the way I played. I stayed calm, even when I lost my break. It was definitely an improvement, but I’m looking forward to the next one."
Fresh off an impressive win over former WTA World No.1 Angelique Kerber, the French No.2 went from serving for the match to fending off a break point at 5-5, but steadied her nerves to settle the match after one hour and 55 minutes on court.
Reaching the last eight at the Toray Pan Pacific Open last week, Garcia has made the quarterfinals or better at seven of her last 11 events - dating back to the Internationaux de Strasbourg, where she reached the semis.
"Tennis can change very fast. The beginning of the season was so difficult for me, and then I improved. I know my game can beat top players, but it was tough to stay consistent for a whole year. I’d be up and down so my ranking would always be the same.
"I can’t get caught up when things go great, or if people enjoy watching you and congratulate you for good results. Those things can’t make me feel over the moon. I have to feel like I’m nowhere right now, and I have to keep going."
In all, the French youngster played a near-flawless match, striking 38 winners to just 18 unforced errors and converting six of 13 break point opporunities.
Against Cibulkova, she took the only two service breaks of the opening set and edged ahead 5-3 in the second before the Slovak - who came perilously close to ousting eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki in Tokyo - came to life, winning 11 of the next 16 points to have a shot at turning the match around.
"When moments get tight and I see myself doing the wrong things, or if I’m starting to go a little crazy, losing my focus, I try to remember that these are the moments I train for, that I want to be in these situations. These are the moments from which you’ll learn the most. Against Domi or Kerber, I reminded myself that I play for these moments.
"These are the ones you have to embrace the most. When you’re almost at the finish line, you can’t slow down. You have to almost go 10 meters past it instead! Other times when I got nervous, I might have stayed behind, and now I’m trying to go for it."
Garcia saved the break point and promptly broke in the next game, sealing the upset and booking a quarterfinal clash with resurgent Russian Ekaterina Makarova.
"I haven’t played her in singles for a couple of years - she gave me more trouble in doubles, but we won the most important one at the French Open! She’s very aggressive, takes the ball very early, and goes down the line a lot.
"She’s playing better since the US Open Series, so I just want to recover from today and be ready for tomorrow. She used to be in the Top 10 and coming back strong, so I know it’ll be a good match for me and one I’ll learn a lot from."