No.4 seed Caroline Garcia survived a stern test from the Laura Siegemund to come through 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 and make the fourth round of the Australian Open for the second time.
Here are the key takeaways from her 2-hour, 10-minute victory.
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Garcia's serve is a rock-solid match-winner: For a set and a half, little about Garcia's game was clicking. The WTA Finals champion committed 16 unforced errors in the first set alone, during which she was comprehensively outplayed by Siegemund.
But she had served three aces in one game and once she raised her first serve percentage from 56% to 77% in the second set and 74% in the third, the Garcia delivery enabled her to first get a foothold in the contest, and then to get out of numerous tight games.
It was also there when she most needed it. Serving at 4-3 in the third set but facing break point, the Frenchwoman sent down her sixth ace of the day to escape danger.
Siegemund showed why she shouldn't be underestimated: Siegemund was the oldest and lowest-ranked player remaining in the draw. But the 34-year-old's ranking of No.158 shouldn't have fooled anyone. A former No.27 and the 2017 Stuttgart champion, Siegemund's career has been beset by knee injuries in recent years.
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But the German showed off phenomenal skills with quick hands to reflex Garcia's power into the open court, superb anticipation to conjure passing shot winners. Siegemund also emerged on top of the best point of the match, one which had the Kia Arena in raptures midway through it as she showcased her full repertoire of strokes, early in the third set.
Garcia Strikes ⚡@CaroGarcia makes a break in the second set 🔥@wwos• @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/Tw3XPBLo4I— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 21, 2023
Once Garcia's game began to click, she came up with bold shot-making of her own. A drop volley was arguably the most important shot of the match, capturing her first break of the Siegemund serve for 4-2 in the second set. And her commitment to net-rushing off the return paid off in the latter stages, particularly when Garcia came through a four-deuce tussle to convert her second match point on Siegemund's serve.
Garcia's quarter is opening up for her: Garcia has avoided the upset against two of the trickiest unseeded players in the draw in Leylah Fernandez and Siegemund. Her only fourth-round showing in 11 previous Australian Open appearances was back in 2018, but the 29-year-old can be optimistic about going further for the first time.
She leads the head-to-head against both of her potential last-16 opponents, No.19 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova and Magda Linette, as well as against potential quarterfinal opponent Karolina Pliskova. In all cases, Garcia has won the most recent encounter. Only No.23 seed Zhang Shuai, who defeated her in Tokyo last September, holds that advantage over her.