LONDON, England - Where better than among the petunias and the Pimm's-drinkers, at Andy Murray's home Grand Slam, for Caroline Garcia to make the last 32 at a major for the first time? It was three years ago, while watching Garcia torment Maria Sharapova across the English Channel at Roland Garros, that Murray marked out the Frenchwoman as a future World No.1, and the Wimbledon champion has followed her progress ever since.
Though Garcia has never thanked Murray for his endorsement, it's plain that his words have carried her through some trying times. "I've never spoken to Andy about what he said about me on Twitter - we say hello when we meet and that's it," Garcia, a 20-year-old of great talent and promise, told wtatennis.com.
The girl sharapova is playing is going to be number one in the world one day caroline garcia, what a player u heard it here first
? Andy Murray (@andy_murray) May 26, 2011
"I was so surprised and so happy when he said that about me that I could be the No.1 in the future. That was a great comment to hear from someone like Andy. At the time, I was something like 150 in the world. I was surprised when he said that, but I'm working hard every day for this to happen," said Garcia, now a Top 50 player, who defeated Italy's Sara Errani in the first round at Wimbledon, and then followed that up by beating America's Varvara Lepchenko to go through to a third round meeting with Russia's Ekaterina Makarova. "Comments like Andy's can be a motivation when you're having a difficult moment and not winning so many matches."
Murray's interest in the women's game goes beyond hiring a former World No.1 - Amélie Mauresmo - as Ivan Lendl's replacement. As he said of Garcia the other day: "For the last couple of years, a lot of people have made fun of me about that tweet. Now they're getting more and more quiet because she's very, very good, and she's going to continue to get better. Physically, I've seen quite a big difference in her this year compared to last year."
Garcia told me she appreciates Murray's promotion of the WTA. "It's great that Andy likes to follow women's matches and to follow the WTA. Maybe there are also lots of other men's players doing this, but it's great to get this sort of promotion from Andy. Someone like Andy, he's a great player, and he knows a lot about tennis, and he understands that progressing in tennis is as difficult for a woman as it is for a man. Maybe men are more powerful than women at the moment, but we are on the way."
Mark Hodgkinson is a tennis writer based in London. He is working on a new tennis book to be published by Bloomsbury in 2015.