Garcia overcomes rain delay and storms into Cincinnati finals

MASON, Ohio — Caroline Garcia earned her third top-10 win of the week at the Western & Southern Open, defeating No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 4-6 6-1 to become the first qualifier to win the ever made it to the finals of a WTA 1000 tournament. In her third WTA 1000 final and first since 2017, Garcia meets Petra Kvitova on Sunday.

Garcia is currently ranked 35th and has won more games since the beginning of June than any other player on the Hologic WTA Tour. Her victory over Sabalenka was her 26th in a span that already includes two titles in Bad Homburg and Warsaw. After battling through qualifiers this week, Garcia has notched wins over No. 4 Maria Sakkari, No. 7 Sabalenka and No. 8 Jessica Pegula. She also beat Elise Mertens in the round of 16.

“I think nobody expected that, that’s for sure,” Garcia said. “It’s a long way to come from Qualies.”

A foot injury kept Garcia sidelined in the spring but she returned to Roland Garros in May and won the doubles title with Kristina Mladenovic. Since then, the former No. 4 has quickly transferred her success story to singles.

Garcia credits her more aggressive, swarming attacking game to her work with new coach Bertrand Perret. She has also added a full-time traveling physiotherapist to her team. Her serve was a big difference maker on Cincinnati’s low-bounce fast courts. Before Saturday’s semifinals, Garcia had been broken just three times. On Saturday, Sabalenka couldn’t find a way through the Frenchwoman’s serve in the first and last set.

Garcia faced Sabalenka for the first time since 2018, overpowering Sabalenka in the opener. She posted 13 winners with 3 unforced errors and converted the 2 break points she earned. After the rain stopped the game 1-1 in the second set, Sabalenka turned the tide, capitalizing on Garcia’s disappointment after the delay. Sabalenka didn’t see a break point in the first set but was able to break Garcia three times in the second set.

After a medical timeout late in the second set to receive treatment and tape her left forearm, Garcia rediscovered her form and timing to break Sabalenka for a 3-1 lead. After another prolonged rain delay, Garcia averted a break chance for Sabalenka to hold 4-1 and earned an insurance break by pulling a double fault at the break point to lead 5-2. Garcia finished the rainy game on cool, leveling their head-to-head game against Sabalenka 2-2.

“First to be in the final of a 1000 event after so many years and today’s scenario was just amazing,” said Garcia. “We had to stop a few times. We never know when we’re coming back. It was a long wait and while waiting you never know what to do, so it was tough.

“I am very satisfied with the last preparation for the comeback at 3:1. I was really ready for every point. That made the difference.”

Garcia finished the match with 24 wins from 18 unforced errors and broke Sabalenka six times. Sabalenka counted 16 winners from 32 unforced errors and broke Garcia three times.

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