PARIS, France - No.24 seed Caroline Garcia's Roland Garros campaign got off to a bright start as she struck 22 winners in a 6-2, 6-4 win over Mona Barthel in one hour and 12 minutes on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.
The French No.1 showed no ill effects from her Saturday loss from one match point up in the longest final of the year, a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3) heartbreaker in Strasbourg at the hands of Dayana Yastremska. Indeed, Garcia becomes the only player coming into Roland Garros off a final run last week to win her opener in Paris: Yastremska, Nurnberg champion Yulia Putintseva and Nurnberg finalist Tamara Zidansek all departed the tournament yesterday.
Garcia had no regrets as to her schedule, though. "Strasbourg was very positive," she asserted. "I missed the title by very little, but it was very positive. Obviously I had to adapt very quickly. Only two days between the two tournaments, but, well, you're traveling and recovering. You're right into it. Sometimes it's not a bad thing not to have too much of a break."
Garcia also garners a measure of revenge against the German, notching up a first win in their head-to-head after two previous first-round losses in Doha in 2012 and Seoul in 2014. Three of their four prior sets had gone to a tiebreak, with Garcia losing them all - but today, the 25-year-old simply bypassed anything so complicated by seizing control early and rarely letting up.
Garcia, who has reached the second week at her home Slam for the past two years, first struck in the fifth game, after four relatively uneventful holds. A brace of backhand winners down the line paved the way to the first break of the day - and from there, an unleashed Garcia accelerated towards the first set, reeling off five consecutive games in a flurry of excellent passing shots and aggressive returning.
Pouncing on an off forehand winner to break Barthel for a second time, Garcia - who landed 71% of her first serves, won 80% of those points and did not face a break point in the opening set - closed it out on her first set point when the World No.86 sent a backhand into the net, one of several routine errors she had committed off that wing.
Garcia still found that there were areas to work on, despite an overall positive assessment of her form. "My shots were a bit too short, not as long as I wanted," she remarked. "But in my mind, things were okay. I knew what I wanted to do. Then the implementation was not necessarily perfect, but it was a first round. Important thing is to get through."
Barthel had never quite got going in the first set, but the second would be much more competitive - starting as the former World No.23 staved off three break points in the first game. On the third, Garcia had missed a putative backhand winner by inches - and, perhaps rattled, proceeded to cough up two double faults and a missed smash to get broken for the first time in the match.
A brilliantly angled pass would enable the former World No.4 to bring the match back on serve, but Barthel's level had risen sufficiently to push Garcia hard now. Redirecting pace effortlessly, the 28-year-old would strike a series of pinpoint down-the-line winners herself to stay level.
It took the point of the match, a breathtaking net exchange won by Garcia at 4-4, 30-30 on the Barthel serve, for the home player to inch ahead once again. A couple of booming forehands later and the crucial break was hers; Garcia would serve out to love with aplomb, finishing with another backhand winner, to set up a Russian second-round date with either Margarita Gasparyan or qualifier Anna Blinkova.