NEW YORK, NY, USA - In a match between two former Top 10 players that would not have been out of place in the later rounds of the Western & Southern Open just two years ago, former World No.4 Caroline Garcia edged 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in Sunday's opening round, 6-3, 7-6(4).
From a break down in the opening set, the Frenchwoman was largely in command against Stephens on Court 17 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in the shadow of Arthur Ashe Stadium where the American sealed her maiden major victory three summers ago.
"I was expecting a tough draw. Because when you see the draw, the girls in qualifying, it was kind of amazing," Garcia said of the prestige of their meeting. "You're like, 'Okay, if I'm not seeded I'm going to play a good girl.' Even if she's not seeded, there is only good girls.
"I felt pretty good. I'm very happy the way I was playing and especially moving on court."
Garcia won six straight games from 3-1 down in the opening set to lead by a set and a break, and though Stephens not only immediately broke back for 1-1 but later built herself a 5-3 lead, Garcia would not be denied her third straight-set victory in four tries against the former World No.3.
Breaking Stephens back to love in the ninth game, Garcia ultimately wrapped up a one hour, 37-minute victory by winning six of the final seven points of the tiebreak.
"I think probably mentally you have to be focused on every single point. It's something I have been struggling in the past months before everything, so it's not something very new for me," Garcia added.
"I know it's something I can improve on and it can help me a lot to get some wins."
The Frenchwoman served six aces in the victory, and despite being broken three times, nonetheless managed to win nearly 80 percent of the points behind her first serve when she landed them.
"It was a tough match against a good player. I had some chances, some good opportunities there, but just wasn't able to convert," Stephens, who dropped to 1-7 in 2020, said in defeat.
"Obviously, not having played that many matches this year, it's a little tough. I still [have] another week to try and improve on it and get better."
After a win over a former World No.3, a former World No.1 awaits the Frenchwoman in the second round, as she will face two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka.
"I'm here to go back to the competition. I'm here to play matches. When you play a big player, top player, even if they are maybe in the ranking anymore not top player, it's good matches," Garcia continued.
"They are the matches I want to play, the matches I train for. So I'm really excited to play these ones and I will learn, anyway. If it goes either way, I will learn a lot and I will be able to get ready for US Open and the next tournament even better."