France’s Caroline Garcia could not have asked for a better draw at Roland Garros 2015. All the same, the No. 31 seed felt that she could certainly have asked for a better court than Philippe Chatrier:
“I wanted to play on a smaller court. But that’s the way it is. They decided to organize the match on center court, on Philippe Chatrier. […] For me, it’s too much to play on this court, and next year I will ask to play on court No. 9, a sort of hidden court where there is nobody.”
The fast-rising Frenchwoman found herself drawn in a section where her fellow seeds included China’s Peng Shuai, Ekaterina Makarova, and Ana Ivanovic — the latter two advanced on Sunday while Peng was forced to retire with a back injury. Though the Russian and Serb can be forces reckon with, neither have been at their best of late, and Garcia has had the upper hand in every encounter with Ivanovic in 2015.
On paper, Garcia had a prime opportunity to reach a quarterfinal at home slam, where she would likely try her luck against defending runner-up Simona Halep, whose own form has been patchy throughout the clay season.
As the match opened, Garcia was clearly not playing her best tennis, but her standard was good enough to take it, 6-3, as the notoriously declining Vekic struggled with nerves of her own. The Croatian teenager later explained that she was ill-prepared for a match on such a large stage, which is why she started the match so slowly.
“I warmed up on the court and I was like: this will be okay. Then I went out in the warmup I’m like; oh my God! There were so many people. I was so nervous in the first set.”
After the loss of the first set, Vekic picked up her game in the second, increasing the pressure on her even-more nervous opponent. While Garcia was never able to steady her nerves, Vekic leaned into the match, creating better play patterns and striking the ball with a great deal more aggression. She took the second set in a mirror image of the first.
It was the third set when Garcia’s nerves really took over. Her unforced error count gradually crept upwards, her first serve lost its effectiveness and her rare visits to the net proved utterly unfruitful. It quickly became clear that the match was only going one way; soon enough, Vekic had closed out the match, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Later in press, a tearful Garcia bemoaned her standard of play at Roland Garros, frustrated that it did not reflect the level of her talent across the rest of the tennis calendar:
“I am disillusioned, every French Open I can’t play tennis whether I’m playing a top-10 player or Vekic, who is a good player. I can’t make it here. It doesn’t depend on the opponent. It just depends on myself, and I can’t play here at the French Open.”
Garcia is not the first French player to suffer from such nerves at home. Two time slam champion Amelie Mauresmo was never able to play her best tennis in Paris, and Garcia was open to discussing it with the former No. 1.
It could be a good idea to talk about it, but we all have our own problems, our own solutions. Haven’t yet found the right solution to play good tennis here. We will see what happens next year.
The Frenchwoman will have to hope that she can find a way to overcome her nerves in the future, to become the big name worthy of Chatrier billing.