World #6 Caroline Garcia has endured a largely frustrating year, as she has failed to advance much on the gains she made last season. But a good run in New York, where she has never previously been beyond the third round, would do much to brighten her outlook for the rest of the year. Her first obstacle is former-world #4 Johanna Konta, who has twice been a Grand Slam semifinalist but now finds herself outside the top 40. Who will come out on top?
Garcia and Konta have met on five occasions so far in their careers and it is the Briton who has had the better of it, leading the head-to-head 3-2. Garcia won their first contest, which came two years ago in Madrid, when Konta retired trailing 4-6 1-2. But Konta then scored victories later that year in Rio at the Olympic Games and in Zhuhai. In 2017 Garcia scored a win in Indian Wells before Konta beat her at Wimbledon in the fourth round en route to the last four.
Last time out
Garcia’s Wimbledon hopes were ended in the first round by Belinda Bencic, but she rebounded in Toronto where she made the quarterfinals, defeating Magdalena Rybarikova and Maria Sharapova before losing to Simona Halep. Garcia impressed in beating former-world #1 Victoria Azarenka in the second round in Cincinnati but lost to Aryna Sabalenka in the third. She then crashed out to Monica Puig 5-7 6-1 2-6 in the quarterfinals in Connecticut.
Konta’s miserable twelve months since reaching the Wimbledon semifinals were brought to a close by Dominika Cibulkova in the second round at the Championships. She responded to that with a 6-0 6-1 win over a distracted Serena Williams in San Jose, but lost in the quarterfinals to Elise Mertens. In Toronto, she upset Ostapenko in the first round but lost to Svitolina in the last 16. She then lost first round in Ohio to Sabalenka before retiring ahead of a second round match in Connecticut.
How do they match up?
Do not be surprised to see a fair number of winners hit in this contest. Both Garcia and Konta have plenty of power and passivity does not come naturally to either. Garcia is the better equipped of the two off the ground. Her forehand is an excellent shot, her best, but her backhand is also extremely dependable. Garcia, twice a Grand Slam champion in doubles, is more than proficient at the net, but does not venture forward particularly often in singles.
Konta has weapons of her own, the most important of which is her serve. When she is stepping to the line with confidence, she can be almost unplayable. But when she lacks confidence in that shot, it tends to bleed into the rest of her game. Her forehand suffers particularly noticeably when her serve fails to land consistently, in part because of her reliance on a one-two punch to win points on her own deal. Her backhand compares poorly with Garcia’s.
After her struggles over the past few months, the last thing Garcia will have wanted was a first-round opponent as dangerous as Konta. The Briton may no longer be a member of the top ten, nor particularly consistent, but she showed her quality in defeating Williams and Ostapenko and she is more than capable of troubling Garcia. Indeed, expect her to do more than just trouble her. Garcia has looked short of confidence and form lately and the Briton is poised to take advantage. Konta in three.