MELBOURNE, Australia -- World No.4 Caroline Garcia could not stop beaming as she took to the dais for Australian Open Media Day. Asked to recall where her head was at 12 months ago as she readied for the 2022 Australian Open, the Frenchwoman looked around the large theater and chuckled.
"I was not in [this] room, that's for sure," Garcia said.
"Obviously it was a start of a new season and probably a new step in my career last year, trying to really do some improvements and really be clear about what I wanted to do, what we wanted to do with the team.
"Make it to maybe the Top 30, to be seeded [here], that was the main goal, on top of being healthy again. For sure I was not expecting to be in this position 12 months later."
Her position as one of the most feared women in the Top 5 was built on an outstanding 2022 campaign that would see her lift two of the biggest trophies on tour in Cincinnati and the WTA Finals, and make her first major semifinal at the US Open. When the year was over, Garcia was awarded France's Champion of Champions award by L'Equipe.
Garcia was the only player to win titles on all three surfaces last year, a credit to how unstoppable her swarming, aggressive game can be on any day.
Love to play for #TeamFrance 🇫🇷🤜🏻🤛🏻😍— Caroline Garcia (@CaroGarcia) January 5, 2023
Merci aux coéquipiers pour cette belle semaine, on a tout donner, on reviendra pour la prochaine @unitedcuptennis plus fort 💪🏻
Cap @ERogerVasselin @alizecornet @JeanjeanLeolia Jessika Ponchet @manuel_guinard @arthurrinder @AdrianMannarino pic.twitter.com/xmG1PBKOfB
But success at Melbourne Park has been tricky for the 29-year-old. She has made it into the second week just once in her career, a Round of 16 showing in 2018. For a player whose game is based on confidence and timing, the first Slam of the season can be tricky to navigate.
"I think what is tough is we don't have a lot of rhythm," she said. "The Slam is coming very fast after the off-season, so you didn't play. So far I didn't get a lot of rhythm on court, not as many wins as I wanted to give me all the confidence I need.
"But it's a great challenge to try to focus and prepare for the tournament not feeling the best of the best. But you can always improve from one day to another, and improve through the tournament, as well."
Drawn into the bottom half of the draw, Garcia will play her first-round match on Tuesday against Canadian qualifier Katerine Sebov.
"I have to start the tournament with the first-round win. That's the most important focus right now, is to prepare for the first match coming up and see what I can do about it, how I can improve to go as far as I can.
"Obviously one of the goals of this year or next year or couple of years coming, is to try to go all the way and win a Slam. We'll see if I'm capable of doing it, but it's a great challenge I want to face."