US Open: for Justine Hénin, “Caroline García is in her place today”

US Open: for Justine Hénin, "Caroline García is in her place today"

Caroline García, the last of the French clan who is still in dispute at the US Open, continues to see her rating rise in New York, after five authorized victories in which she has not lost a single set. The eighth Frenchwoman in the Open era (since 1968) to qualify for the semifinals of a Grand Slam in singles – the first since Marion Bartoli in 2013, when she won Wimbledon – the 28-year-old (17me world) will challenge Ons Jabeur of Tunisia (No. 5 in the world) on Thursday, September 8 for a place in the final.

Since the beginning of the fortnight, the Lyonnaise “conveys confidence and tranquility”, says Belgian Justine Hénin, former world number 1, who comments on the tournament for Eurosport.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers US Open: The American nights of Caroline García

After four years of doubts and injuries, García has won three tournaments this summer and is preparing to play his first Grand Slam semifinal in singles: what most strikes you about this return to the fore?

Today she is a player who is in her place, highly concentrated. She shows that she is confident in being there, whereas in the last few years, we felt like she was lost on the ground. This return to the highest starts above all from a realization and from this confidence, recovered or finally acquired. When she first reached this level, at the end of 2017 [lors de son doublé Wuhan-Pékin], It was all very fast, he played very well in a very short period of time, and behind it was much more complicated, between injuries, disappointments, doubts also as a person. I had the opportunity to talk with her, we felt that she was looking for herself a lot.

The physical dimension also plays a role. The bugs seem to be behind him. However, when you feel physically strong, you believe in yourself much more. He speaks to me because I lived it.

In 2018, it had risen to 4me place in the world, before experiencing a desert crossing: was it too soon, were the expectations too high?

Today, we feel a maturity in her. She has a risky game, very aggressive, at the time she was offensive but what she wants to put on the court seems much clearer. It is extremely demanding tennis. Keeping up with this style of play is a challenge. Inevitably, there will be falls in the coming months, but we hope that now he can settle definitively at the top of the world elite.

She is a player who has gained autonomy, she assumes her responsibilities on the field. We also have the impression that she has the right people around her, this is not a trivial factor.

Since December he has collaborated with Bertrand Perret. Until the spring of 2021 she trained under the orders of his father. Was this emancipation a necessary step?

Yes, I think it was essential. All of this may have taken time, but it was done smartly, she didn’t cut ties with her family. Each player must find his own mode of operation, what is valid for one is not for another. Today, Caroline managed to put her puzzle together.

On the pitch we see her more determined. Just look at the way he clenches his fist when he wins a big point, it exudes a spite that has nothing to do with what we’ve seen in the past.

His game was already resolutely advanced, we have the impression that he is even more offensive…

It is a tennis that hurts a lot today, offensive as well as structured; she doesn’t hit any old how anytime either. In the rooms we saw a suffocated Coco Gauff, sounded by García’s aggressions [l’Américaine a été battue 6-3, 6-4]. For that, you need to have the legs. At that time, it was much more difficult for Garcia to maintain this intensity. He can also rely on his service, even in important moments.

This US Open was a first test to see if he was going to confirm his winning streak of the summer: are you surprised by his mental management of the event?

Like many people, I legitimately asked myself the question: would I be able to reproduce this level in a major event? I was surprised by his match against Gauff, in front of his audience, at the Central. She more than managed the event, I liked seeing her aggressiveness, we feel that she is very eager.

Caroline is a girl that I really like, but sometimes I would criticize her because we were a little disappointed to see her so lost. Sometimes, after certain games, she didn’t hear him get angry.

At some point an athlete has things to prove in relation to the expectations they may have, all the difficulty is living and assuming those expectations. Today, Caroline has obviously found many answers to her questions and proves herself many things: we saw her facing Alison Riske [en huitièmes de finale], whom he had never beaten before. In this tournament and in his career, it is a new step. Can she go to the end? Yes.

Arriving in New York as an outsider, she can no longer hide…

So far it has not hidden in the ground, it has responded. Admittedly, she was a bit overshadowed by Serena in the first week, but since the table was wide open, we were expecting a result from Caroline. She assumed, showed it in front of [la Canadienne Bianca] Andreescu [la vainqueure de l’édition 2019, vaincue par Garcia au 3e tour 6-3, 6-2], then players she had never beaten… The pressure is there, we saw her facing Riske at the beginning of the match. She just handles it better, that’s the big difference.

Your team is probably thinking [à une potentielle victoire finale]the general public too, but Caroline must stay in her bubble.

When we know such a state of grace, what should we beware of?

She and her clan must not feel it as a state of grace. I don’t think it’s a culmination either, it’s a construction, the continuity of her work.

Today’s danger is the unknown of a Grand Slam semifinal. Get to rooms and feel that “there is room”. Hence the need to maintain the state of mind that he has had since the beginning of the tournament and focus on this match as if it were a 3me round, an eighth… She must continue to protect herself from everything that can be said about her abroad.

Can Ons Jabeur represent a trap for her given her style of play?

Jabeur is having a great season: he reached a Grand Slam final [Wimbledon] and she has been one of the most consistent players this year, as her rankings show. She proved to herself that she was capable of many things, she garnered a lot of confidence.

She doesn’t like being attacked very much, she is capable of breaking the rhythm, but she will have to raise her level of play, Caroline, she will stay in her aggressive pattern, that is what she knows how to do best: I would put her as a slight favorite for her game and everything he has shown so far in the tournament.

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