WTA Finals: Garcia flying high in Fort Worth

Frenchwoman is ready for biggest final of her career against Sabalenka

Caroline Garcia Fort Worth WTA Finals 2022©Mike Frey / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

Two hyper-aggressive players contesting the biggest final of their respective careers: The championship match of the WTA Finals in Fort Worth on Monday will be a high-stakes high-octane affair between French world No.6 Caroline Garcia and world No.7 Aryna Sabalenka.

Garcia put together a dominant performance to defeat Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-2 in the semi-finals on Sunday, while Sabalenka knocked out world No.1 and reigning Roland-Garros champion Iga Swiatek 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.

Garcia recovered remarkably well from a tough clash with Daria Kasatkina from the night before - a 2hr 27min affair that ended in a third-set tiebreak - and looked sharp against the fifth-seeded Sakkari.

The 29-year-old now has a chance to become the first French champion at the WTA Finals since Amelie Mauresmo in 2005.

Garcia is 2-2 head-to-head against Sabalenka but won their sole previous meeting this season, a three-set semi-final showdown en route to lifting the trophy in Cincinnati three months ago.

"Aryna is a very powerful player, huge serve, huge forehand, and she looks like she's playing some great tennis here so far," said Garcia, who is chasing her fourth title of the season.

"We know that she's very, very always showing a lot of emotion on court, going for her shot. I played her a couple months ago in Cincinnati. And, I mean, it's different. I would like to put pressure on her obviously, and to be able to use their ball as well. But I will try to play my game."

Sabalenka put in an impressive performance to snap Swiatek's 15-match winning streak against top-10 opposition.

The 24-year-old had lost all four meetings she had with Swiatek this season but looked determined to end that losing run as she troubled the Pole with some punishing returns and powerful groundstrokes.

"The only thing I had in my mind was just to make her work, and that's it. And I think only because of that I was able to show unbelievable tennis tonight and get this win," said Sabalenka of the key to her win over Swiatek.

While both Garcia and Sabalenka are offensive players, the Frenchwoman noted some differences in their games, saying: "I think she's more baseline hitter. She's, yeah, really powerful from the serve, forehand. I try to be more inside the court, try to play more on the, taking the ball early and using the pace of the other one. And I think I go more to the net. That would be the biggest difference with her."

Sabakenka's most recent win over Garcia came in 2018 and she knows the Frenchwoman has come a long way since.

"I think she's a different player right now, she has more confidence in her game. It's going to be a different match. I expect a lot of good serves, a lot of good winners. I''ll go with the same mindset, I'll make her work for it," Sabalenka said on the Tennis Channel set at Dickies Arena.

With victories over Swiatek in the semis, and Ons Jabeur and Jessica Pegula in the group stage, Sabalenka has now defeated all top three players this week in Fort Worth.

High praise from Chrissie

Former world No.1 and 18-time Grand Slam winner Chris Evert has kept an eye on Garcia this season and told reporters in Fort Worth on Sunday how much she enjoys watching the Frenchwoman.

"I’m very impressed with her this year," Evert said of Garcia.

"It’s been really nice to see because she’s had a tough go and I think personally and in her tennis game and I think she’s never really reached her potential because she’s had a lot of obstacles.

"This year, I see a smile on her face and I see her just crunching the ball, stepping inside the baseline and just going after her shots with freedom; consistency, she’s serving great. I think finally she’s coming into her own and is reaching her potential – the potential we saw five, six, seven years ago but it never came to fruition.

"I love watching her. They’re very organised strokes, she has great timing. I like her game a lot."