Ruthless Kerber overwhelms Garcia

 - Alex Sharp

The former world No.1 surges into the quarter-finals, where she will take on current No.1 Simona Halep.

Roland-Garros 2018, 8e de finale, Angelique Kerber©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber emphatically ended home hopes at Roland-Garros with a 6-2 6-3 victory over world No.7 Caroline Garcia.

“It was not an easy match,” said the world No.12, who has not yet dropped a set in Paris. “I played good from the first ball, and I was really focusing on my game, on my tennis. I knew that it will not be easy against Caroline playing here at home. I love it with a really full house in front of a lot of fans.

“In the second set, at the end it was a little bit close, a little bit tricky the end, but I was still trying to stay focused and playing every single point.”

Kerber’s reward for such a ruthless display is a quarter-final clash with world No.1 Simona Halep, who earlier on Monday dispatched 16th seed Elise Mertens 6-2 6-1 in just 59 minutes.

“I'm always looking for matches like this, to play on the big stage against the best players. This is always a big challenge for me,” reflected Kerber, who fell 9-7 in the decider in an astonishing Australian Open semi-final facing Halep back in January.

“I know this is a tough match, but every match here, it's tough. So I know what to do. I know what to expect. I'm looking forward for a big challenge.”

Garcia had prevailed in their only previous clay duel, in Madrid in 2014, but Kerber inflicted a 6-1 6-1 scoreline on Garcia at Indian Wells back in March. It was a similar tale on Monday afternoon on a blustery Court Suzanne-Lenglen, with the German immediately getting to grips with the challenging conditions.

A drive volley from Garcia looped long, enabling an instant break. While Kerber rattled though consecutive holds to love from 2-1, the French charge couldn’t contend with the relentless consistency arriving over the net.

A crunching serve-backhand combination powered her into a 5-1 lead, and the 30-year-old clinched the opening set within half an hour.

The ardent French crowd cheered every point Garcia claimed, but Kerber clinched the pivotal break again, connecting with a cannonball cross-court backhand passing shot to move 3-1 ahead.

Serving at 1-5, Garcia relinquished four successive points from 40-0 up, then fended off four match points to finally force Kerber into a fight. With the pressure seemingly lifted, Garcia swung freely and cut a deft drop shot to chalk up another game.

But Kerber would not be denied, and the home hope's 37th unforced error halted any possibility of a magical comeback.

World No.12 Kerber previously featured in the Roland-Garros last eight in 2012 and believes adapting her game for clay can benefit results on other surfaces: “I think I change a lot. 2012, it's a long time ago. I was trying to really play better on clay in the last years.

“It’s much better now and I think that clay can help me also being better on the hard court, on grass. I'm trying always to improving my game, me as a player. It's working so far.

“It's more in my mind,” added the 30-year-old, hailing a mental transformation on the red dirt. “The last years I was always too fast, I was always overpowering my tennis, and now I'm trying to play more relaxed and trying to move better and just look from match to match.”

Garcia rued her missed chances out on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, but is determined to return to Roland-Garros and progress to the latter stages.

“I know that some people think I will never make it, but I'm sure I'm going to make it,” insisted the 24-year-old. “Today she played a very good match. She gave me very, very few points. She played very accurately and very precisely. I wasn't in it.

“I exit disappointed and frustrated, because I know I could do better. But you have to learn and continue.”