INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA -- In a hotly anticipated match between two of the WTA’s Top 10 stars, No.10 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany trounced seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia of France, 6-1, 6-1, to obtain the final quarterfinal berth at the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday night.
It was Kerber’s fourth consecutive day of singles action, following her two-day-long triumph over Ekaterina Makarova and her dethroning of defending champion Elena Vesnina, but the former World No.1 was still in world-beating form as she eased past Garcia in 62 minutes.
"I’m having a day off tomorrow -- finally!" Kerber exclaimed to the press after the match.
"I’m happy about how I played," she continued. "I think that I was feeling the ball from the first point, and I was trying to stay focused. I know what to expect, I played against her in [China], so I was just trying to return good and serve good. I think that was the key, the return and the serve."
The German rolled past Garcia, winning 82 percent of points when she got her first serve into play, and taking nearly 60 percent of the points when she was returning the Frenchwoman's serve. Kerber held 13 break points in the match, converting six of them en route to the commanding victory.
Kerber thus extends her head-to-head lead over Garcia to 4-2, and avenges her loss to the Frenchwoman in their most recent match -- a first-round encounter last year at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open that kickstarted Garcia's run to back-to-back titles in Wuhan and Beijing and a spot in the Top 10.
"For sure, I’m still trying to improve my tennis," said the 2016 year-end World No.1. "I’m trying to be aggressive and trying to change a few things in my game, and also having the mentality again, like fighting for every ball and trying to stay motivated. Just focusing on every single match that I can play."
The left-handed German flew to a big lead in the opening set, breaking Garcia to start the match via a curling forehand winner on break point, and then clinching a double-break advantage for 3-0, as her signature wing was flummoxing the Frenchwoman, both crosscourt and down the line.
Garcia started to make a charge back into the set, breaking Kerber in the following game with a terrific volley. The seventh seed then rallied from 0-40 on her serve to give herself three chances to hold for 2-3. Kerber was undeterred, and broke the Garcia serve another time, on her fifth break point in a nine-minute game after another strong forehand forced an error from Garcia.
Garcia never got a foothold in the opening frame, and Kerber rolled to the set, clinching it when she returned an excellent Garcia serve right on the sideline, and Garcia failed to put the overhead back in play.
Garcia had numerous chances to start the second set on a high note, holding three game points in her opening service game. But the Frenchwoman's forehand, which served her so well at the end of last season, faltered at crucial times. Another wonderful forehand passing shot by the German gave her a break point to lead 2-0, and it was converted after yet another forehand miscue by Garcia, this time wide.
Kerber then had to fend off four break points in the following game, as Garcia increased her aggression, charging to the net and crushing as many balls as possible, in hopes of quelling the downward spiral. But Kerber would not be denied, eventually holding for 3-0 behind two sterling, well-placed serves which Garcia was unable to return successfully.
Garcia finally quashed Kerber's eight-game winning streak when she held for 5-1, but it was too little, too late, as the 2016 Australian Open and US Open champion took the victory by running down everything Garcia threw at her until a final forehand error went into the net on match point.
Kerber will now face No.20 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia, who upset World No.2 and reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki earlier in the day. Kerber has faced the 20-year-old Russian four times in the last 18 months, and Kasatkina has been a challenging rival, taking two wins over the former top-ranked player.
"I played a few times against her," said Kerber. "It will be another, I think, long match, and with a lot of long rallies.
"She plays the forehand with a lot of spin, also the second serve with a lot of spin," she elaborated. "I think she has a lot of confidence right now. She played good in Dubai, she beat Caroline [Wozniacki] today, so it will be a good match. I know what to expect, she’s moving good, so I will just try to play my game. We will see how it works in the first few games."