FORT WORTH, Texas – Continuing her career renaissance, No.6 seed Caroline Garcia swept into the last match at the WTA Finals with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-2 victory over No.5 Maria Sakkari on Sunday.
Garcia will meet No.7 Aryna Sabalenka in the Monday final at Dickies Arena at 9 pm ET. Sabalenka will head into the finale coming off an upset against top-ranked Iga Swiatek.
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The result was a mild surprise given the context of history; Sakkari's loss became only the seventh time a player posted a 3-0 round-robin record and failed to reach the final. It last happened seven years ago, to Maria Sharapova and Garbiñe Muguruza.
29 - Caroline Garcia is the first player to reach the final at WTA Finals after turning 29 since Venus Williams in 2017. Perseverance.@WTA @WTA_insider @WTAFinals pic.twitter.com/rpPEYHh61Q— OptaAce (@OptaAce) November 6, 2022
“Yesterday, I was a little bit tired -- nothing unusual after such a big match,” Garcia said in her on-court interview. “This morning, obviously the legs were a bit heavy, but I was just so excited, the emotion and the win yesterday to be playing a semifinal today of the WTA Finals.
“I was feeling very pumped. This morning I talked to my physio [Laura Legoupil] and I said, `I hope it’s going to last long enough to go to the match.'”
older and wiser 😜@CaroGarcia | #WTAFinals pic.twitter.com/00k41qIPMp— wta (@WTA) November 6, 2022
Indeed, heading in, it was fair to wonder how Garcia would fare physically after Saturday’s draining victory over Daria Kasatkina. While Garcia was battling for nearly two and a half hours, Sakkari -- thanks to the luck of the draw -- was enjoying a day off.
But it was Garcia who came out looking fresher in the first set, taking the ball early in characteristic fashion. The Frenchwoman broke Sakkari in back-to-back games, while at the same time taking care of her serve.
Garcia would win 12 of 15 first-serve points (80 percent) and add two to her tour-leading ace total. The last shot of the first set underlined Garcia’s dominance: a big serve followed by a drop-shot winner.
The second set didn’t go any better, with Garcia taking Sakkari’s first two service games to take an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
Sakkari -- the last player to qualify for the tournament -- entered the week with only a single Top 10 win this season, but changed the narrative in Texas with victories over No.2 Ons Jabeur, No.3 Jessica Pegula and No.7 Aryna Sabalenka.
This was Garcia’s career-best seventh Top 10 win of the season. At 29, she’s the oldest player to qualify for the semifinals since Venus Williams in 2017. Garcia collected another $420,000 with the win and 330 ranking points -- with the opportunity for $820,000 and 420 more with a win Monday.