Garcia version 2020 out to fly further

Former quarter-finalist delighted the home support with a rollercoaster victory over Elise Mertens

 - Alex Sharp

Caroline Garcia is competing for the here and now, the Caro of 2020. 

The home charge prevailed in an enthralling 1-6, 6-4, 7-5 clash with the supremely consistent Elise Mertens to return to the Roland-Garros second week.

The world No.45 was a quarter-finalist on the Parisian clay back in 2017, but Garcia is eager to rewrite her Roland-Garros history.

“I think I have learned a lot since these times, but also when you're younger you think less, you learn from both situations,” reflected Garcia, who eventually converted her sixth match point in tense but top-level exchanges.

“I think I played some good tennis so far in this French Open. It's not always great scenario, but I fight until the end, and step by step. Now I'm in the second week, and I had some good three matches.

“I'm curious to see how it goes against Elina Svitolina, who is a very solid player and in full confidence now. So I don't know if I'm as good or better or whatever from 2017, but I'm just the Caroline Garcia of now, 2020." 

The 26-year-old, featuring in her 10th consecutive Roland-Garros main draw, was hauled over the line by the raucous, ardent support from the lucky spectators able to join on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Missing the usual packed stands at Roland-Garros, with ‘Allez les Bleus,’ ringing around, Garcia is grateful that the limited crowd made their voices heard at this unique edition of her home major.

“For sure it was a great feeling out there, and especially the match was a big fight in the second and third sets,” explained the French favourite, who takes on the third seed in the fourth round.

“To be able to live this kind of moment, first of all, because we didn't know what was going to happen, to be able to play Roland-Garros, it's a great feeling, and to have some crowd to be able to share it with, it's even more special, especially as they were really cheering for me. I will never forget that.”

Having secured that precious last-16 ticket, Garcia flew across the court with her trademark ‘Fly with Caro’ celebration; it evidently meant a lot.

However the world No.45 isn’t done yet, hoping to cause some "damage" further into the draw.

Anett Kontaveit and Mertens have presented two world-class challenges, players who have been tallying up the victories since the restart, further boosting Garcia’s morale. 

“Yeah, for sure they played a lot of matches, winning a lot of matches since beginning of the year and since we started again, as well,” mused Garcia, who struck 18 forehand winners en route to victory and canvassed the net with an 18/28 success rate.

“I played some good tennis in the US I think, and I lost against a good player like Victoria Azarenka and Jennifer Brady, so after, when I came back on clay was not as great, but I kept working. 

“I think everything is possible. I can do some good damage with my forehand and with my serve, and I train a lot on clay courts before the U.S. swing, and I think I'm more confident on this surface now," added Garcia, who trained at the Rafael Nadal Academy during the tour's hiatus and ahead of the tournaments in New York.

“I must enjoy the moment as well. I mean, the court is amazing and brand new, so brand-new memories.”