MELBOURNE, Australia - No.8 seed Caroline Garcia sealed her first win of 2018 after a slow start against Carina Witthoeft, dismissing the big-hitting German, 7-5, 6-3, to reach the second round at the Australian Open.
"It's nice to compete and finally start my 2018 season," the relieved Frenchwoman said during her on-court interview.
Forced to retire from her first match of the year at the Brisbane International due to a back injury, Garcia twice found herself down a break to start the match against Witthoeft, who pushed then-No.1 Angelique Kerber to three sets last year at this very tournament.
"I was not very happy with my first set but I kept fighting and tried to find a solution," she explained on Margaret Court Arena. "She was serving well, but at 5-3, I arrived and did better, and that made the second start easier at the beginning."
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Garcia promptly turned that deficit into a commanding lead, winning nine straight games to force the German to face down a potential second set bagel. Undeterred, she kept the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open and China Open champion honest in the end, saving a match point with a searing forehand up the line.
"I couldn't do much about the passing shot on match point, but I tried to stay calm and keep going."
The 24-year-old saved a break point with some impressive serving and ultimately clinched victory on her 33rd winner of the 90 minute match to advance into the second round. In all, she maintained a +4 differential in winners to unforced errors, and struck a solid five aces while maintaining a 76% first serve percentage.
Standing between Garcia and her third round of 32 appearance in the last four years is Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova, who won her first main draw match in Melbourne over Kurumi Nara, 7-5, 6-4.