Caroline Garcia upsets Maria Sharapova at Porsche Tennis Grand Prix
A match, that did not have a clear winner, ended in a dramatic fashion at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart on Tuesday evening. Caroline Garcia fought in the last two sets against former champion Maria Sharapova to advance to the second round with a 3-6, 7-6(6) 6-4 win on Centre Court at the Porsche Arena. It was Garcia’s first win over the Russian that brought an end to her four-match losing streak to show that her tenacity paid off against the world number 41.
The Russian made her return after a long break since Indian Wells, having taken time off to prepare for the clay court section of the tour. With her second appearance back at this tournament since her suspension, the 31-year-old hoped to make good of the first round and beat the French star for the fifth time.
They hadn't met since Madrid in 2015, making it a perfect chance for her to perform on what stands as her second home away from home court. A win for her would be the first since January at the Australian Open.
She began the set, holding off Garcia before watching her opponent struggle on her opening serve with two double faults. The former number one made it 3-0 which woke up Garcia and she was on the board on her second try. Sharapova still continued to dictate her serve and regained her three-game lead which led to Garcia opting to have a discussion with her father and coach during the break.
When play resumed, the advice she received, resulted in another service hold in an attempt to reduce the gap. She had a 30-0 lead on the Russian but a break from Sharapova allowed her to gain control back on serve and get up to 5-2. Garcia was once again 0-30 down but somehow held her end together to avoid giving another freebie.
Sharapova brushed off Garcia’s new push in the set, landing a second ace on her serve that shut out the French star and helped her secure the opener in 34 minutes. While there was an effort on Garcia's part, her lack of winners and eight unforced errors showed that Sharapova had a lock on her own game, serving 87 percent on first serve points and seven of ten on the second.
Garcia finds her rhythm as Sharapova struggles
The second set saw a better turnout for Garcia as she battled Sharapova to gain a lead in the third game. Garcia then remained out in front, earning a second straight break in the sixth game as Sharapova double faulted a second time in the game -- her fifth double fault overall. The former champion recovered from the struggles and battled back Garcia’s surge, picking up a break to trail by just one game. The Russian’s serve to love levelled the playing field at four-all soon after.
Garcia showed signs of desperation as she rushed her serve and got into trouble on the scoreboard. She recovered in time to force deuce, where the pressure grew for both players.
After a few breaks, it was Garcia who contained her serve to step ahead 5-4 and threaten a third set into action. Sharapova denied her that chance, sending the set further on but was still a game down. With a good hold in the 12th, the Russian managed to force a tie-breaker, giving her a chance to win the match in straight sets.
It was the first tie-breaker between them. Garcia showed that her strengths were alive and well. She took it heavily against Sharapova, who committed a double fault, that gave the French star a sure chance at sending the match the distance. Garcia had three set points on the Sharapova serve, but saw all of them disappear as the former number one played gutsy tennis, landing two winners and an ace.
The tie-break continued with Sharapova leaving room for match point while Garcia hunted down the set point. Garcia took the first mini-break, leading 7-6, before an unforced error into the net from the Russian gave her the set.
The second set alone lasted 1 hour and 13 minutes, where although the fight for control was tight near the end, Garcia clearly had the edge on Sharapova. The Russian made costly mistakes, recording six double faults and 13 unforced errors, despite having a dozen aces and 21 winners.
She made up for her downfall in the second by holding serve in the first game of the decider, before gaining a break on Garcia in the second. The short margin didn’t bother the world number seven as she recovered lost ground and got into a tight race to the finish.
Both stayed tight through the next few games, making it anyone’s match to win. The sixth seed played a big point to win game nine and got a chance to serve for the match. She battled Sharapova to gain a match point, but erred on it. She made up for it by landing a solid shot that saw the ball landing wide on the return and it gave her the huge victory after 2 hours and 44 minutes.
“I think it was a very close match,” Garcia said during her on-court interview. “I was expecting her to fight and in the end being very difficult. I was a little bit more aggressive today and I returned a little bit better. Finally, I can say after seven years that I beat her.”
The sixth seed would continue her quest for a title this season when she takes on 15-year-old qualifier Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the second round on Thursday.