BEIJING, China - Last year’s champion Caroline Garcia survived another tough battle in Beijing to keep her China Open title defense alive, edging past Polona Hercog 7-6(2), 6-3.
Last week, Garcia began facing the daunting task of defending the incredible 2017 fortnight that saw her claim back-to-back titles in Wuhan and Beijing. In Wuhan, she fell at the first hurdle to an inspired Katerina Siniakova - despite holding match point and a set lead.
But in Beijing, Garcia has fought her way into the round of 16 after two tough battles; in the opening round, she needed three hours to see off local wildcard Wang Yafan, eventually winning 7-6(12), 6-7(4), 6-3 in a herculean effort. It was more straightforward against Slovenian qualifier Hercog, but by no means easier.
There was nothing to separate the pair in a tight opening set - there were only three break points on offer during the entire set as each game went comfortably to the server. Garcia earned the first two chances at 2-2, playing aggressive to keep Hercog under pressure. After holding her serve, Hercog dished out the same treatment to earn a break point on Garcia’s serve at 3-2 - neither player was able to capitalize as, eventually, the set needed a tiebreaker.
In the decider, it was Garcia who made the perfect start, reeling off five points in a row to lead 5-0. Hercog did well to cut down arrears and earn two of them back, but the Frenchwoman calmly served out the set after a hardfought 58 minutes.
Keen to avoid another marathon match after her first-round heroics, Garcia dialed up the aggression in the second set. She was rewarded with the first break at 3-2, and came away with the edge to lead 4-3 after three consecutive breaks of serve. She closed it out with another break on the Hercog serve to seal her spot into the round of 16 in an hour and 42 minutes.
Things won’t get any easier for the No.4 seed in the next round - Garcia will face the winner between a pair of big hitters, either No.14 seed Garbine Muguruza or last week’s Wuhan champion Aryna Sabalenka.
More to follow…