BEIJING, China -- Caroline Garcia's magical run through China has reached new heights.
The World No.15 from France shocked impending World No.1 Simona Halep of Romania, 6-4, 7-6(3), to win the China Open on Sunday. Garcia has won her second consecutive title and eleventh straight match, and will enter the Top 10 at World No.9 on Monday after her heroics.
"I was like, 'Seriously, this really happen?'" exclaimed Garcia in her post-match press conference. "I mean, it was such an amazing two weeks. It went so fast."
Garcia also now sits in eighth position in the Porsche Race to Singapore, putting herself ahead of Johanna Konta of Great Britain for the final singles spot at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
Moreover, Garcia became the first ever player to win the Dongfeng Motors Wuhan Open and the China Open in the same year. Petra Kvitova in 2014 and Garbine Muguruza in 2015 made both finals, but neither could capture both titles (Kvitova lost the Beijing final that year, while Muguruza could not triumph in Wuhan in 2015).
Read More: WTA Insider live blog as it happened: Garcia rules in China, wins second straight title
The final was exceptionally close -- Garcia and Halep each finished with 76 points won, their ratios of winners to unforced errors were similar, and they had nearly equal success rates on their service winning percentages.
Garcia, however, got one more break of service than Halep, and that opportunity was the difference. Halep could only break once, and even though she had ten break points in total, there were only two games in the entire match where she held break point at all.
"The key was definitely to be aggressive and try to dominate the rallies -- my serve was really an important thing because she's a very good returner," explained Garcia. "I have to be aggressive, but I have to control myself sometimes," she laughed.
Meanwhile, Halep was pleased with her performance after claiming the No.1 ranking with her semifinal win. "I think I played well," Halep told the press after the match. "I hit the ball well. I served pretty okay. But she served better in the important moments. So I'm okay with the performance and I'm okay that I could do a great match."
The match started with an exchange of breaks, as both players tried to find their rhythm under the closed roof on a rainy day in Beijing. From there, the set evolved into a litany of intriguing rallies, usually pitting the powerful forehand of Garcia against Halep’s excellent mobility.
The Frenchwoman found herself in a tricky game when serving at 4-4. After racing to a 40-0 lead, Garcia hit a drop shot which Halep chased down, and Garcia missed a backhand volley to finish the point. The game slid to deuce, but two poor returns by Halep allowed Garcia to escape with a 5-4 lead.
Halep faltered in the next game, at the exact time when it would cost her the most. A clutch of unforced errors by Halep gave Garcia double set point, and when another miscue came off of the Romanian’s forehand, Garcia was a set away from completing the Wuhan-Beijing double.
The combatants tried to improve their consistency in the second set, and there were no break points for either player in the first six games of the set. That would soon dramatically change.
Serving at 3-3, Garcia hit three consecutive unforced errors to open the game, giving Halep a chance to crack the set open and attempt to drag the match into a third set shootout. But Garcia saved all three break points, bringing the game back to deuce.
This ignited a marathon game; over the next 12 points, Halep would attain a break point, and each time Garcia would bring the game back to deuce. After six rounds of that pattern -- bringing Halep's break point total in that game to a mind-boggling nine -- Garcia reached her first game point when Halep failed on a service return. A backhand unforced error by the Romanian suddenly ceded the game.
"I was coming back to deuce, and I was losing this point again and again," Garcia told the press. "It was just, like, crazy. But, I mean, for sure it definitely turned the second set on the good way for me. This game was definitely very important."
After letting nine break points go, Halep showed her mettle by holding at love for 4-4, demonstrating that she would not give in. With a minimum of dramatics after the pivotal seventh game of the set, the players advanced to the tiebreak, neither having broken serve in the set.
It was in the tiebreak, though, where Garcia asserted her dominance. A strong volley gave the unseeded Frenchwoman a 3-1 lead, although a passing shot by Halep which Garcia mistakenly let drop inside the sideline put Halep just one point behind, at 4-3.
But two consecutive inexcuseable unforced errors off Halep's backhand gave Garcia a 6-3 lead and two championship points. When a brilliant Garcia forehand square on the sideline was too strong for Halep to put back into the court, Garcia rejoiced after winning the biggest title of her career after one hour and 52 minutes.
"I think I fought till the end, which I'm really happy about," said Halep, who gave the utmost credit to Garcia afterwards. "She played an amazing tennis. To win two tournaments in a row, it's a great thing. She deserved to win today. She was better."
Garcia, meanwhile, was still stunned by her quality play. "Like to win it on my first match point in the tiebreak against Simona, new No. 1, it's very difficult for me to believe," said the new Top 10 player. "It's just amazing. It's difficult to put words on what I'm feeling right now."
"To win a title, it always means something because you finish the week undefeated," Garcia continued. "You stay forever a winner of this tournament. So it definitely means something."
"To be in the top 10 also means something because it's a step in your career that you want to achieve," the Frenchwoman elaborated. "You never know if you're going to reach it, but it's a very important goal. It means you are a part of the top 10 best players in the world."