Both pro tours easily lend themselves to a discussion of the title holders and the challengers. There’s the Big Four and Wawrinka, and there’s Serena and Kerber (or, at least there was Kerber, before she fell off) and Sharapova (or, at least there was Sharapova, before the drug test) and Azarenka (or, at least there was Azarenka, before the baby). And then there are all the others who come in relentless waves trying to dethrone the reigning kings and queens.
In this week’s Players You Should Know we’ll discuss a player who many believe will ultimately end up in the highest echelon of “the others”. Who, you ask? Here are some hints:
1) She already has a grand slam title to her name.
2) She’s represented her country in the Fed Cup Finals.
3) She wears Nike and, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, she borrowed some clothes from compatriot Kristina Mladenovic.
We’re talking, of course, about the friendly Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia who, at 23 years old, currently sits at #24 in the WTA rankings. Word around the tour from players and coaches alike is that Caroline has what it takes to become to be a mainstay in the Top 10 and, on her best days, to beat any other woman in the world and some consider her to have an outside chance to win every slam she attends.
Caroline won her maiden Grand Slam trophy when she and Mladenovic teamed up to win the 2016 Roland Garros doubles event, one of the four tour events she and Mladenovic would win in 2016. On the singles side, Garcia has already racked up three titles: 2016 Strasbourg and 2016 Mallorca, and 2014 Bogota.
She also had two huge singles wins in the 2016 Fed Cup Finals in front of the home crowd in Strasbourg, beating both Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova. Even though the French team ultimately fell to the Czechs, the event was another occasion for Garcia to prove to herself and to the world that she is capable of beating top players on a big stage. After winning the French Open Doubles at home, and playing Fed Cup in front of the partisan French crowd, no one doubts that she has the nerve and the talent to take titles. Below, Garcia speaks after her win over Karolina Pliskova to put France up 2-1 in the Fed Cup Final.
What she is sometimes accused of lacking is sustained concentration and Garcia can fall victim to taking herself out of a match. She hits her shots flat and sharply, which means that when her level drops she doesn’t leave herself much margin to hang in rallies and rediscover her comfort. A final area of improvement might be her movement, which doesn’t always put her in the positions she needs to execute her weapons.
What will 2017 bring for Caroline? Well, if all goes to plan it will put her closer to the top 10. “’I want to put my concentration on WTA events and the Grand Slams,” Garcia explained. “My goal, it’s to be Top 10.” To help her focus on this goal, she has opted to forego Fed Cup for 2017 and dedicate her efforts to rising in the rankings. Last year at Wimbledon, 30th seed Caroline stopped by our Hospitality House to say hello and sit with us for dinner. This year we’ll invite her by again, but it she’ll likely be seeded higher than 30th.