NOTTINGHAM, Great Britain -- No.1 seed Caroline Garcia of France got through a stern test in the quarterfinals of the Nature Valley Open on Friday, overcoming Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-1, to reach her second semifinal of the season.
World No.28 Garcia needed just under two hours to pull together a hard-fought comeback victory over 211th-ranked Ruse, who was contesting her first-ever WTA quarterfinal and came very close to her first win over a Top 50 player.
"[Ruse is] a young player, she’s probably on her way up," Garcia said, after her victory. "She went for her shots, she’s very aggressive, solid on both sides."
"I was ready for a fight and I definitely got it, so I’m very happy with the way I fight and kept believing in myself," Garcia added.
The encounter was moved from the outdoor grass to the indoor hardcourts due to rain, as most matches at the event have been during the precipitation-plagued week. There, Garcia stayed steely and survived dazzling play from the qualifier in the first two sets, eventually firing 28 winners throughout the match, including 10 aces, to close out the victory.
"The first set was very tight, only one break, and I couldn’t find my rhythm on her serve, and she served very well," Garcia stated. "In the second set, I kept fighting very hard. It was difficult, I had to save break points at 5-5 in the second, but I was very aggressive and going for my shots, and I’m very pleased with the way I improved at the end of the second set and in the third."
"I just had confidence in my game," Garcia continued. "I think I can serve very well and be aggressive with my forehand, and that’s what I tried to do. I tried to put this all together, and it was better."
In the final four, Garcia will face a familiar foe: Jennifer Brady of the United States, who upset No.4 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, 7-5, 6-3. Garcia had a 2-0 lead in her head-to-head with Brady coming into this season, but Brady has since won all three of their 2019 encounters.
In the opener, Garcia fell into immediate danger by dropping serve in the very first game of the match, after she let a backhand fly long on break point. The Frenchwoman only lost one point on serve in her next three service games, but Ruse was impenetrable on serve in the first set, where Garcia was never able to garner a foothold in the Romanian’s service games.
The top seed fired her third ace of the opening frame to hold for 5-4 and give herself a chance to stay in the set, but Ruse continued to serve lights out, holding with ease and jumping to the one-set lead without ever facing a break point.
Ruse kept up a divine mix of pinpoint shotmaking and dogged defense in the second set, and the Romanian made it through the first two sets without having to contend with a break point. Meanwhile, Garcia again found herself facing peril, as the first break points of the second set were against her, at 5-5.
However, the Frenchwoman came up with some stellar deliveries to erase three break points in that game, eventually holding her serve with a screaming backhand winner down the line. Ruse, to her credit, was not immediately fazed by her missed chances, and held with ease once more to send the second set into a decisive tiebreak.
In the breaker, though, Garcia started to take control. The No.1 seed earned the first minibreak with a forehand winner to lead 4-2, and used that wing again to force an error and take the next point on Ruse’s serve to go up 5-2. A netted Ruse forehand gave Garcia triple set point at 6-3, and the top seed converted her first chance after a netted backhand miscue by the qualifier.
After that, the floodgates opened for Garcia, and she took command of the match. The Frenchwoman finally garnered her first break point of the tilt in the opening game of the decider, and her aggressive play led to a winning volley to break Ruse for the first time.
Ruse did well to save four break points and hold for 2-1, but that would turn out to be the Romanian’s last tally on the scoreboard. Garcia grabbed a second break to lead 4-1, and after superb serving brought her to 5-1, the No.1 seed finished off the match with back-to-back return winners, the second off the netcord, to seal a spot in the semifinals in Nottingham.