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Caroline Garcia beats Aryna Sabalenka for WTA Finals title

FORT WORTH, Texas – Caroline Garcia donned a cowboy hat to accompany the trophy she was holding after telling fans she had enjoyed her first trip to Texas.

There was a lot for the Frenchwoman to like in Cowtown.

Garcia put in a tight first set and went into a 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over Aryna Sabalenka to win the WTA Finals championship on Monday night.

Sixth-placed Garcia became the second player from France to win the season-closing event after Amelie Mauresmo in 2005, also the last time the WTA finals were held in the US.

The event was moved from China to Texas over safety concerns for Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former local government official of sexual assault. The coronavirus restrictions also influenced the decision.

Garcia won his last six sets after losing the first in a winner-takes-all match against Daria Kasatkina in the group game. The 29-year-old is the oldest WTA Finals winner since Serena Williams, aged 33, in 2014.

The only player to win titles on all three surfaces this season, Garcia was as comfortable as Sabalenka on the temporary indoor hard court at Dickies Arena near downtown Fort Worth.

As a result, Garcia gave the Belarusian number 7 player only her third loss in 12 career hard court finals. Sabalenka was trying to become the first player from her country to win the WTA finals

There was only one break point in a meeting of the tour (Garcia) and tournament (Sabalenka) leaders on aces that entered the match.

Garcia converted that break point in the first game of the second set, while handing number 7 Sabalenka only his third loss in 12 career hard court finals on the temporary indoor court at Dickies Arena.

Garcia won six straight points in the tiebreaker, crowned by his 10th ace of the first set, with a 6-2 lead. Sabalenka’s third double foul ended the set. Garcia ended up with 11 aces.

“It was a lot of aces, sometimes not a lot of rallies,” Garcia told the crowd. “But that’s our style of play, and I hope you enjoyed it.”

Sabalenka reached the title fight by defeating Iga Swiatek, the leader of the ranking. That semi-final victory ended a 15-game winning streak against top 10 opponents that was the longest on the tour in 35 years.

Garcia matched Sabalenka’s power from the start in his fourth win of the season, losing only to eight from Swiatek.

“I just lowered my level a little bit in the tiebreak and in the first game of the second set,” Sabalenka said. “Those were the key moments.”

Tied in the deciding game, Garcia’s winning serve gave her a second match point, and Sabalenka hit a long forehand. Garcia landed on the court on his back with his arms raised.

Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens beat defending champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 4-6, 11-9 to clinch the doubles title in the WTA Finals on Monday night.

Kudermetova and Mertens picked up six straight points after losing 7-2 in the champions tiebreaker before closing things off at the second match point.

Krejcikova and Siniakova were both trying to finish a dominant season that included titles in all three Grand Slam events they competed in. It was only the fourth loss of the season for the Czech duo, who were trying to become the seventh doubles team to defend a WTA Finals title.

Kudermetova and Mertens avenged their loss to Krejcikova and Siniakova in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

Mertens is a three-time doubles champion, including the 2019 US Open and the 2021 Australian Open with Sabalenka.

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