After a five-year absence from the WTA Finals singles field, Caroline Garcia made a powerful return to the year-ending championships with an opening round-robin win.

The No.6 seed Garcia needed 1 hour and 18 minutes to defeat No.4 Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday night in Fort Worth. It was the first round-robin match for each of them in the Tracy Austin Group.

"It was definitely a good match, pretty solid on my side," Garcia said after the match. "I think I stayed really positive at every moment.

Photo by WTA

"[Coco] is always impressive to play against, it’s always a lot of intensity and she can do so many things. ... It was very important for me to stay calm, stay on my game and what I wanted to do, and I think I did it good."

Garcia joins World No.1 Iga Swiatek as the first winners in the Austin Group. Swiatek dispatched No.8 seed Daria Kasatkina in straight sets earlier in the evening.

Garcia's return: Garcia finished the 2017 season with a flurry of success, winning two consecutive WTA 1000 titles to make her WTA Finals debut. Garcia reached the semifinals of that event, but she missed out on singles qualification for the next three editions (the WTA Finals were not held in 2020). 

At the start of this year, Garcia was ranked outside the Top 70. However, the Frenchwoman had a resurgence in the second half of 2022, which she credits to increased aggressive play. Garcia has won 33 tour-level matches since June, at least 10 more than any other player in that timeframe.

Garcia won three titles in the back half of 2022, all on different surfaces -- the only player to win titles on clay, hard court and grass this season -- and she made the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career at the US Open.

Garcia secured her second WTA Finals qualification five years after her debut. Only three players have had longer gaps between their first and second WTA Finals appearances -- Amy Frazier (eight-year gap), Barbara Paulus (six years) and Judith Wiesner (six years).

Momentum continues: Back at the season-ender once more, Garcia won her second straight meeting with Gauff to level their head-to-head at 2-2.

Gauff had won their first two encounters, but Garcia achieved her career-best major result by beating Gauff in the 2022 US Open quarterfinals. Garcia continued her momentum against the American teenager Tuesday, firing 20 winners to Gauff's 12.

Behind consistent forays into the forecourt, Garcia converted four of her eight break points to topple Gauff, who is making her WTA Finals debut. 

Photo by Hawk-Eye Innovations

With an aggressive stance, Garcia won 45 percent of points returning the Gauff first serve, while Gauff won 23 percent of points returning Garcia's first deliveries. Garcia fired just a single ace in the match, but that now ties her with Elena Rybakina for the most aces this season (370).

On Tuesday, Garcia broke a stalemate on serve by lining up a set point at 5-4 with a rally full of exceptional angles, and she converted that chance with another aggressive return. Garcia took the lead for good by edging ahead 4-2 in the second set after three straight breaks.

At 5-3, Garcia found a batch of sturdy deliveries to serve out the match at love, becoming the first French player to win a WTA Finals match in straight sets since Amelie Mauresmo's defeat of Maria Sharapova in the 2005 semifinals.