NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.6 seed Caroline Garcia displayed some impeccable form to tackle a blockbuster first-round encounter between two former Top 5 players at the US Open, holding off Johanna Konta 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 15 minutes.
"Today I was expecting a battle, I was ready for it," said Garcia during her post-match press conference. "I know it could be difficult to break her, so I was really on my serve and really taking every opportunity I had on the return. And I think compared to the previous matches we played against each other, I returned better today. I was able to read her serve a little bit better."
It was a magnificent performance from the Frenchwoman, who struck 21 winners to just 11 unforced errors, and who was impeccable in finishing points at net with a 100% success rate.
"You know, when she was getting in control, I was just trying to really be on the ball every time and play deep," Garcia continued. "I think that's what I did good today."
Following her spectacular Top 10 breakthrough at the end of 2017, when Garcia swept through an Asian double of titles in Wuhan and Beijing before storming her way into the WTA Finals semifinals, the 24-year-old has enjoyed one of the most consistent years of her career in 2018. Though she has yet to scale similar heights as last fall, second-week showings at the Australian Open and Roland Garros along with two semifinals and six quarterfinals in total reveal a level of steadiness that has not always been present in her results.
Konta, meanwhile, has been quietly regaining some form following a lean 12 months in which her ranking fell from World No.4 after Wimbledon 2017 to No.50 leaving London this year. This year's US Open Series saw the 27-year-old rout multiple Slam champions Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in consecutive weeks for the loss of just five games between them.
Though the head-to-head ostensibly showed Konta with a narrow 3-2 lead, the scorelines indicated a different story: prior to today, Garcia's only victories had been once via retirement and once in a third-set tiebreak. However, a flawless match today would level matters in short order.
The serve, as ever, would be paramount for both players - and Garcia's was on song. The 2017 Roland Garros quarterfinalist conceded just five points behind her delivery in the first set, maintained a 73% first serve percentage overall and struck seven aces to Konta's four.
The Briton, on the other hand, served at just 50% in the first set - and, pursuing a relentlessly aggressive strategy as ever, Garcia did not hesitate to step in on return. The Stuttgart and Madrid semifinalist smothered her opponent with deep returns that forced mistimed Konta errors, and punished her opponent's second serves by simply belting the ball even harder, en route to two breaks of serve in the opening set.
Last year's Wimbledon semifinalist managed to get her teeth deeper into the second set, pushing Garcia to deuce on her serve twice and trying to switch her tactics up by moving forward - but it would be a delightful angled volley from the World No.6 that paved the way to the first break of the set.
At 4-2 up, a flurry of Garcia forehand errors threatened to be a turning point as the French No.1 missed an opportunity for the double break - but the five-time WTA titlist responded brilliantly. A brave, low-percentage forehand down the line was followed by a sliced backhand winner that bounced sideways to protect her hold for 5-2. In the final game, Konta continued to press too much, with her 17th unforced error of the day sealing the match for Garcia at the second opportunity.
Garcia will next face 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig in the second round, after the Puerto Rican defeated Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele 6-0, 6-0. Puig defeated Garcia in the quarterfinals of the Connecticut Open in New Haven last week.
Garcia said that their New Haven encounter "was not a very good match for my part. [Puig] was coming from qualies and she was playing good. She has confidence, so I have to play my best match like I always need to. Of course, the match against Johanna today is going to give me confidence, and I will need to play as good as today to beat her."