MELBOURNE, Australia -- No.8 seed Caroline Garcia won her 150th main draw match at WTA level on a hot Thursday in the second round of the Australian Open, but she had to do it in comeback fashion. The World No.8 from France overcame a one-set deficit to defeat Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova, 6-7(3), 6-2, 8-6.
"Of course, I'm very happy with the win today," Garcia told WTA Insider after the match. "It was difficult conditions and a tough opponent for sure."
"I was struggling with my game, I didn’t play as well as I wanted, but I kept fighting and tried to stay positive through the match. I was able to take a good opportunity at the end of the match."
Garcia denied the impressive 18-year-old lefty her first Top 10 win in a two-and-a-half-hour barnburner, and advanced to the third round for the third time in the last four years. There, Garcia will take on rapidly improving Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who upset No.28 seed and 2017 Australian Open semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia, 6-3, 6-1.
The French star had 42 winners in the match, compared to Vondrousova's 30, and hit eight aces, bolstering her to winning 75 percent of points on her first serve throughout the contest. Vondrousova, to her credit, also had eight aces, but was partially undone by eight double faults as well.
Garcia got off to a flyer of a start, winning the first three games on her serve at love, and garnering the first break of the match at 2-1, when the Frenchwoman hit a backhand service return winner on her sixth break point of the game.
But the wheels started to fall off for Garcia after she grasped the 4-1 lead, as the unforced errors mounted and Vondrousova began to serve more effectively. With Garcia serving at 4-2, Vondrousova started to win many of the points with scintillating cross-court groundstrokes, and broke on her third chance in the game to get back on serve at 4-3.
Garcia was not completely frustrated at this point, and held a set point on Vondrousova’s serve at 5-4 after a big service return led to a crushing backhand winner cross-court. But Garcia netted a service return on that point, and Vondrousova recovered, hitting an ace to hold for 5-5.
The players advanced to the tiebreak, and the Czech quickly dominated, as Garcia was unable to put many of Vondrousova’s serves back in play. The teenager raced to a 6-1 lead in the breaker, and although solid serves and forehands by Garcia gave her the next two points, Vondrousova aced Garcia at 6-3 to close out the first set, after surviving numerous precarious positions.
As quickly as it felt like all the momentum was with Vondrousova, it was upended as Garcia swiftly leveled the match at one set all. Vondrousova double faulted while serving at 1-1 to give Garcia a break point, which the Frenchwoman claimed with a perfect overhead.
Garcia then found herself with a double-break advantage to lead 4-1, and the eighth seed was determined not to let this lead slip away as she had in the opening frame. At 5-2, a backhand winner down the line gave Garcia set point, which she took when Vondrousova hit a service return long, tying the match.
Garcia broke Vondrousova to open the decider, and it appeared that she was ready to run away with the match. But with Garcia serving at 2-1, 0-15, Vondrousova successfully chased down a Garcia smash, which led to a stunning backhand winner down the line to get the game to 0-30. A shocked Garcia quickly lost the next two points, and Vondrousova was back in the match at 2-2.
A visibly flummoxed Garcia had to survive three break points to hold for 4-4, and Vondrousova was holding her service games with ease at this point, putting extreme pressure on the powerful Garcia game. Yet another long game at 6-5 went Garcia's way, as the French player exhibited some of the champion's mentality that propelled her into the Top 10 at the end of last year.
Finally, at 6-6, it was Vondrousova's turn to feel the weight of the moment, and two errors off the left-handed player's backhand side gave Garcia the pivotal break of the match. Now brimming with confidence, the World No.8 strutted out to the court knowing full well she was in command, and played a clean game to hold serve at love and close out the victory.
Garcia looks forward to her date with Sasnovich as a chance to improve after two tough opening rounds. "I need to just enjoy and be more consistent on the court," she told WTA Insider. "Of course I’m really happy with these two complicated wins, but I want to do better in my game."