WUHAN (China) • Caroline Garcia overpowered Australia's Ashleigh Barty 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 to claim her first Wuhan Open title yesterday, after a see-saw final in Wuhan.
Ranked 20 in the world, Garcia battled her way through two tight sets against Barty before breezing through the third to claim the biggest title of her career.
"It was such a fight all week and especially today," the French player said after the match.
"A title is the best thing you can have in tennis; that's why you fight all year long. I'm over the moon for sure."
Garcia, 23, stormed her way into an early lead in the first set but a resilient Barty, 21, twice came from a break down to force a tiebreak that she went on to dominate.
The Australian served for the match on two occasions in the second set, while her opponent also had two chances to close out the set before it was forced into another tiebreak.
The third set was simpler for Garcia, who fell to her knees in celebration after Barty fired a final return into the net.
A LONG PROCESS OF RECOVERY
I was spending five hours in the gym. It was my first time and I almost cried after a practice. I was, like, so tired. I was, like, 'C'mon, get me back on court, this is all I want.'
CAROLINE GARCIA, on her struggle to return from a back injury.
"My first serve deserted me a bit but I put myself in a position where I was only a few points away from winning the final," said Barty. "Disappointing to not come away with it in the end, but sometimes it crumbles that way.
"But it's still been a hell of a week, probably the best week of my tennis career."
It was the first professional meeting between the pair after Garcia beat Barty on her way to the 2011 US Open girls' final.
The Wuhan win is not only Garcia's biggest title yet, but also of any French player since Marion Bartoli won the Wimbledon trophy at the All-England Club in 2013, noted wtatennis.com.
Garcia said the work she has done to come back from a back injury is now helping her both physically and mentally, allowing her to be more consistent.
She could not play in Stuttgart or at the Fed Cup because of the injury, and had to do a lot of training and rehab to recover from the problem.
"I was spending five hours in the gym," she said. "It was my first time and I almost cried after a practice. I was, like, so tired. I was, like, 'C'mon, get me back on court, this is all I want'. "
Garcia returned from the injury at the clay-court events at Madrid and Rome, and has since reached the quarter-finals or better at all but two of the eight WTA events she has played, in addition to reaching the second week of both the French Open and Wimbledon.
Now that she is playing again, the Frenchwoman is enjoying competition a lot more. "All this hard work, it's why I work for. Today when I was serving for the match, I told myself, 'That's why you train hard'," she said. "This is the moment you have to embrace and just play. I can enjoy the win now."
At the China Open in Beijing, Maria Sharapova, ranked 104 in the world and a wildcard, gained revenge over Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova with a gutsy 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 7-6 (9-7) victory in the China Open first round yesterday.
It was the five-time Grand Slam winner's first appearance since she was beaten by Sevastova at the US Open early last month and gets her stop-start return from a doping ban back on track.
Earlier, second seed Simona Halep battled past the American Alison Riske 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.