WUHAN, China -- Caroline Garcia of France extended her fantastic run at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open on Friday, dismissing Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-2 to reach her first final of the year, and the first Premier 5 level final of her career.
"It feels good, it was a long time without a final," Garcia rejoiced during her on-court post-match interview. "It was such a fight today, and she had a great week coming from qualies, and I’m very happy with the way I played."
With this victory, World No.20 Garcia claimed her 40th win of the year, which includes two Top 15 wins earlier in the event over No.7 seed Dominika Cibulkova and No.12 seed Angelique Kerber.
"So, last two weeks, it's going in the good way," Garcia explained, in her press conference. "When I arrived in Wuhan, I was not thinking about right now. But I'm just happy to be here and I just want to keep improving. I know it's still a long way. I just want to be focused on the present, enjoy it. Every single week of this season was a step forward, and I want to keep going."
It was an impressive display from Garcia, who was rarely troubled throughout the 79-minute match. The Frenchwoman was solid on both serve and return, and finished many points with successful powerful forehands. Garcia got 73 percent of her first serves in, often keeping Sakkari off balance from the start.
"I was really focused on the game, on my performance, how I could improve," Garcia said in press. "Sometimes when I got a little bit stressed or feel the tension, I was, like, that's really the moment I want to live and the moment I want to play on court, so I went for it. I enjoyed every minute."
The beginning of the tilt, though, was shaky. An exchange of breaks started the match, as both players tested each other's serves during their most important match of the year -- and, for World No.80 Sakkari, the first WTA semifinal of her career.
It was Garcia who became steadier first, as she continued to serve aggressively, and then patiently waited for the correct moment to strike, typically off the forehand side. She was then able to crack open the first set by breaking for 4-2 when a terrific backhand service return was too much for Sakkari to handle.
Serving for the first set at 5-3, Garcia overcame a minor wobble after she clipped the tape to cause an unexpected backhand unforced error. She regrouped and hit another forehand winner to bring up set point, and a brilliant wide serve set up a short return, which the Frenchwoman slammed with another forehand.
Much like the first set, the players had issues on serve to open the second, which began with three consecutive breaks. But Garcia started to click on her forehand again as the set wore on, putting away a winner off of that wing to hold for 3-1, and then breaking for 4-1 after another powerful forehand forced a Sakkari error.
A solid hold at love for 5-2 by Sakkari only prolonged the inevitable, and Garcia closed out the match with a love service hold of her own, sealing victory with a final strong forehand that Sakkari could only hit back into the net.
Garcia finished the match with 16 winners, twice as many as Sakkari. The Greek put up a valiant effort, but Garcia was consistent when she needed to be, and used her greater experience to take advantage of the more pressing moments, converting five of her eight break points overall.
"I have been solid in the important points," Garcia elaborated, in her press conference. "I play very well when it was 30-30 or deuce. When I had break point, I did it almost every single time. So I played very well the key moments and key points. That makes a difference."
Garcia will now attempt to win her fourth career singles title on Saturday when she faces off against Ashleigh Barty in a championship match between two unseeded players. It will be the first professional meeting between the two, as they both contend for the biggest title of their careers.
However, in her on-court interview, Garcia was reminded of her previous history with Barty -- in juniors. "We played each other a very long time ago," she laughed. "We were both girls, very young at this time. It's going to be a very different match."
"She’s played some great matches, she beat some top players along the week," Garcia continued, regarding her final opponent. "So I have to be ready and play the best I have played this week."