DUBAI, UAE - No.14 seed Caroline Garcia had to wait nearly two months to claim her first win at WTA event in 2019, but she did so in dominating fashion at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, dropping just two games against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to ease into the second round.
Garcia came into the match looking to jumpstart her WTA season at the Emirati event: the Frenchwoman had reached the third round at the Australian Open and recorded two big wins for her country at the Fed Cup - but she had gone 0-3 at WTA events, falling in the first round at Shenzhen, Hobart and Hua Hin.
Taking the court late in the evening in Dubai, Garcia got the job done in style, claiming the victory 6-2, 6-0 in just over an hour.
“We waited a very long time to come on court because the match before was crazy,” Garcia explained afterwards, having taken to the court around 10 pm. “It was difficult conditions too because it was more cold.
“After the first game I came back positive and broke back straightaway, I think that was very important. I just tried to stay focused on my game. I think she can play so much better, but sometimes this happens and you have a bad day. Thankfully I stayed focused and was able to play my game.”
There was not much to separate Pavlyuchenkova and Garcia for the first four games. The match opened with a pair of breaks, with Pavlyuchenkova striking first and Garcia leveling at 1-1. The pair have faced each other four times previously, and that familiarity showed on court as they stayed toe to toe through the next few games.
But Garcia, who came into the match trailing Pavlyuchenkova 1-3 in their head-to-head record, found another gear to take charge in the match at 3-2. She stayed solid to reel off four games in a row as Pavlyuchenkova’s emotions got the best of her, unforced errors leaking out from the Russian’s racquet.
Garcia’s serve kept her ahead in the rallies - she was serving at 73% of first serves and winning 71% off of her second serves - and the No.14 seed eased through to take the opening set.
A Pavlyuchenkova double fault - one of seven she struck during the match - handed Garcia another break as the Frenchwoman continued to steamroll, starting the second set 2-0. It was one way traffic from there as Garcia dropped just three points across her three service games, breaking Pavlyuchenkova three times in a row to finish the set to love and claim the win after 62 minutes on court.
She notched 12 winners against Pavlyuchenkova’s eight, but it was her unforced error count that made the difference: nine against the Russian’s 31. Garcia’s serve also kept her ahead, winning 59% of points behind her first serve and 83% off of her second.
Up next for Garcia in the second round is American qualifier Jennifer Brady - and a chance for revenge. It was Brady who knocked out Garcia in the first round of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin earlier this year, defeating the Frenchwoman in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6(3).
Tomorrow’s match will be equally challenging as Brady comes into the contest in form, qualifying for the main draw and knocking out former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 6-0 in her opening match.
“I played her not too long ago, in Thailand maybe two weeks ago,” Garcia said. “She’s playing good lately I think. She goes through qualies every time and plays tough matches in the main draw. She was very solid against Jelena, and she has a tough serve and forehand.
“I think the win of today will help me. It’s a match that I’m looking forward to, and I want to improve as much as possible in my next match.”