NEW YORK, NY, USA – No.6 seed Caroline Garcia made progress into the third round of the US Open, recovering from a second set hiccup to beat 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.
The Frenchwoman was playing Puerto Rico's favorite daughter for the second time in two weeks, and was eager for revenge after Puig beat her at the Connecticut Open in New Haven.
“That match in New Haven was not very good for me,” Garcia told press. “I tried to take this match like a new match and see what I can do better.
“She was very confident, of course, she had a great first round here. So I wanted to play well, and I played well in the first set but then everything got complicated for me in the second set. But it was a battle, and I made it and I’m very happy about that.”
Garcia was in immaculate form in the early stages of the match and raced through the opening set in half an hour. The contrast in the second was dramatic as Garcia’s serve failed her and Puig fought back
Barely 15 minutes had elapsed as the higher-ranked player stormed into a 4-0 lead thanks to blistering display of accuracy against the Olympic champion. It total, she would strike nine winners in the first set and hit just three unforced errors.
Indeed, it was virtually lost when the Puerto Rican finally worked her way onto the board, gaining a much-needed fingerhold on the match.
If she held hopes of Garcia’s nerve failing her as she served for the set, she was to be left sorely disappointed. Although the 24-year-old won the first point at 5-2, her opponents reeled off four in succession, taking the opener when Puig netted a second-serve return.
The WTA World No.55 made a somewhat more positive start to the second set. There was something of a wobble in the opening game as she trailed 15-30, but Garcia had come off the highs she had shown in the first set and gave up her first two break points of the match with a double fault. Puig took her first opportunity.
Garcia’s funk continued and when she hit long cheaply, she found herself facing the same deficit her opponent had in the first.
The turning point came in a marathon ninth game, one that featured 11 deuces and forced the Frenchwoman to save six break points. Once she held, the final game was a formality as Garcia promptly broke to secure victory after an hour and 57 minutes.
“At 4-4 on my service game it was really tense,” Garcia said. “I had to save so many break points - she was returning amazing, a couple of return winners. I was trying to change my service, going for a little bit more on my second serve, but I couldn’t really find any solution.
“I just kept fighting, and you know, I knew deep inside that if I could make this game it would be difficult for her to keep going. So I really tried to stay positive and come back every single time. To win this one was very important for me.”
Up next is either Kristina Mladenovic or No.30 seed Carla Suárez Navarro, who face off later in the day.
“It’s going to be a big match for sure, it’s two different kinds of game,” she said. “I just have to be ready for it and prepare my match very well. It’s a third round match so it’s always very difficult - I will have to play better than today I think.”