DUBAI, UAE - No.5 seed Caroline Garcia closed out the night session at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Lucie Safarova.
Safarova is a former Top 10 stalwart and 2015 French Open finalist, and pushed Garcia to the brink as the match got to its critical stage, leveling the second set from a break down and forcing the Frenchwoman to bring her best and clinch victory after an hour and 22 minutes on court.
"I'm definitely very happy with the win, and relieved to get through in two sets because I was up and had a bad game," Garcia explained during her on-court interview. "She kept believing and fighting, so I'm really happy to be in the second round because she's always a tough player, coming back from injury. We all know she's very good, and she's fighting her way back, for sure."
Garcia has been fighting her way through the last six months herself, surging to back-to-back title runs at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open and China Open. That fortnight in Asia helped her secure an 11th-hour bid to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, where she won her round robin group and made the semifinals.
Even before that career breakthrough, however, the 24-year-old had played well in Dubai, reaching the semifinals back in 2016, and showed off some of that form on Tuesday night, striking 18 winners to 15 unforced errors, breaking serve three times to book a second round clash with another lefty veteran in Ekaterina Makarova.
"You're always happy to come back to a place you like. It's a great atmosphere to play tennis because there's a lot of French fans a lot of fans who know a lot about tennis. That always makes it nice to be here."
Makarova recovered from a set down to defeat Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova in three on Monday. Garcia and Makarova last played in Wuhan, where the French star won in straight sets.