Caroline Garcia: “This victory over Raducanu gives me confidence in my choices”
Caroline Garcia didn’t flinch against Raducanu-mania, and qualified for the third round in style (6-3, 6-3)
On Centre Court on Wednesday, Caroline Garcia was aggressive and determined, and showed a lot of class, reminding everyone why the woman now ranked 55th in the world was once in the top four, back in 2018.
“I’ve always been an aggressive player, I’ve always been forward. But on grass, instead of finding yourself with a bit of a rotten bounce, you try to go more forward,” she commented after beating Emma Raducanu (6-3, 6-3). “I’ve been getting more confident lately in my game towards the net, towards the front. It’s something I’ve always worked on and lately even more so. Physically, I’m doing better, so I can go to the net faster, because until recently I wasn’t able to move too much! Now I’m able to get my volleys in and finish important points by putting pressure on my opponent.”
The Frenchwoman, not a fan of the big courts at Grand Slams, negotiated her baptism of fire at Wimbledon perfectly against the new star of the women’s tour.
Garcia: “I had everything under control”
“She played very well here last year, obviously has a lot of success in the big tournaments,” commented Garcia on the No10 seed. “I knew she would be at her best today on Centre Court. I was playing on this court for the first time.
“I was mostly focused on myself, on what I wanted to do, on my aggressive game. I tried to learn from my loss to her in Indian Wells as well (…) I told my team after the match: I’m very happy that I managed to win this first match on Centre Court because I don’t have good memories of my first steps on centre courts at other Grand Slam tournaments.”
From the very first games, it was clear that this match would be played on Garcia’s racquet: more powerful, faster, more precise, she was, and would remain, far superior to Raducanu.
“In the exchanges, I was often in an aggressive position and I was leading,” said the player who is now coached by Bertrand Perret, with her father in a supervisory role. “But in the two games where my aggression went down, it came right back up. I had things under control, but as soon as I slowed down and let her take the rally, she came right back.”
“String it together, get the body firing”
It remained to be seen whether this would last in front of a crowd ready to roar for the US Open champion at the slightest opportunity. The applause after Garcia’s double fault on the first point of the match was a good indicator.
“I knew the crowd would support Raducanu, there’s no problem with that. I think they’re really respectful and the Brits are cheering for the show. In the end, it seemed quite harsh but I had to be very concentrated on each point, and I had to be very strong on my serve. I managed to stay on my game.”
For Garcia, her natural aggression has dominated her game. With a week in Bad Homburg that was as successful as it was tiring, the strategy is all the more important as energy reserves are still very low.
It may be a good thing, in the end, not to leave her any choice: Garcia has to go for it, it’s plan A, B, C and even D. “Physically, you deal with it… We all have problems. I prefer to play one match after another and have my body firing. You do the best you can to recover and on the court you make do with what you have.”
“It hasn’t been too easy lately”
It was an icy shower that the Frenchwoman gradually poured over Raducanu and the crowd. The Briton, who explained that she had only been able to spend seven hours on court in a month due to a series of physical ailments, was unable to create one of the feats she staged so impressively last year. At 19, the woman who took her A-levels last year has plenty of time to achieve further triumphs.
At 28, Garcia is glad to be arriving at the end of a tunnel that she was beginning to find interminable, having been close to 80th in the world last May. “It hasn’t been too easy for the last year and a half. The physical side of things was not so good. In November and December, we really took the time to do things well, to surround ourselves with good people, to focus on that because being 100 per cent physically allows me to impose my game, to be more dynamic. It’s good to see that it pays off, it gives you confidence in the path you’ve chosen.”
It was her second win against a top 15 player this season after Elena Rybakina in Sydney in January and her best Grand Slam win since Karolina Pliskova, then world No 3, in 2020 at the US Open. She will now play for a place in the last 16, which would be only her second at Wimbledon after 2017, against China’s Shuai Zhang (No 33), another fan of the high-speed game.