Caroline Garcia served her way into her first semifinal in six months with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Victoria Azarenka on Thursday at the Guadalajara Open AKRON.
The No.3 seed saved all 11 break points she faced against 10th-seeded Azarenka to book a spot in the final four at the WTA 1000 event, her deepest run at a tournament this year since finishing runner-up to Donna Vekic in Monterrey in March.
Garcia had lost her last five quarterfinals this year after reaching the round in four of her first six tournaments this year, going 2-2. France's top player also improved to 4-1 against Azarenka all-time with the 97-minute win, though Thursday's match was their first meeting in three years.
Garcia saved five break points across her first two service games, including four in a seven-deuce marathon game at 1-1 that lasted more than 10 minutes, and a break in the sixth game decided the opener. She later saved six more break points in a four-deuce second game of set two, after she broke Azarenka to start the set, and dug out of 0-40 to hold.
In four subsequent service games in the second set, Garcia lost just three points.
"I try to be aggressive, she's likes to put pressure ... and I try to really use my serve to start the point well, and be inside the court as fast as I can," Garcia said afterwards. "It's always tricky. She had a lot of break point opportunities, but I served really well at those points, so I guess I have to thank my serve.
"At the beginning of the match, I was a little bit tight, my legs were feeling heavy and everything. I managed to stay calm and try to just move as much as I can and see what I can do."
In all, Garcia hit 10 aces and 28 winners, to 21 unforced errors, and her aggression forced Azarenka into 33 errors. The former No.1, a semifinalist in Guadalajara last year, hit 13 winners to just eight unforced, as well as seven aces.
3 - Equalling her career best of WTA 1000 semi-finals in a calendar year with a third of 2023, this is also the third time Maria Sakkari has reached a WTA 1000 SF without dropping a set, after Doha and Indian Wells (2022). Form.#GDLOpenAKRON | @WTAGuadalajara @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/dHRCGo9SwR— OptaAce (@OptaAce) September 22, 2023
Garcia will take on No.2 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece in Friday's semifinals. Sakkari ended the breakthrough run of World No.180 Emiliana Arango by notching a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the Colombian late Thursday night.
“Obviously today, it was a little bit windy, [Arango's] game was tricky, I never played her," Sakkari said on court, after her win. "She’s a very talented and promising player. She was playing free and she had nothing to lose, so it’s always tricky to play with someone that feels that way. Credit to her, she played a great match.”
Last year's Guadalajara runner-up Sakkari needed 1 hour and 22 minutes to ease past Arango and return to the final four. Sakkari is now one win away from her seventh WTA hard-court singles final -- but she is still yet to win a title on this surface.
Garcia has won three of her four meetings with Sakkari, but Sakkari finally got a win in their head-to-head in their only previous encounter this year. Sakkari toppled Garcia in a third-set tiebreak in the Doha quarterfinals in February.