- Aryna Sabalenka is the only seeded player in the Western & Southern Open’s final four
- She’ll face Caroline Garcia, in her best form in years, in the second semifinal Saturday (1pm ET)
- Sabalenka will be the favorite; scroll for our analysis of the matchup, and best bets
Of the four semifinalists at this year’s Western & Southern Open – three of them of the unexpected sort – the most unexpected is likely France’s Caroline Garcia.
The 28-year-old had to come through the qualifying, and is the lowest ranked of the three unseeded players.
Garcia vs Sabalenka Odds
|[Q] Caroline Garcia (FRA)||+2.5 (-125)||+120||O 21.5 (-120)|
| Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)||-2.5 (-110)||-150||U 21.5 (-118)|
Garcia is a former No. 4. And that came just four years ago. But as she pointed out after the match, when you lose a few matches, they forget about you.
And suddenly, when you win a few, you’re no longer a “loser”.
She’s always been considered one of the most complete players out there – tall, good serve, good mover, good net skills, good everything.
But it’s the biggest muscle in the human body – the brain, specifically the tennis brain – that has been her biggest impediment.
Is this a new era?
Garcia began the season 9-11 in singles. She’s 22-4 since, with two titles, and has gone from No. 75 in the rankings to earning a seed at the upcoming US Open.
Her straight-sets win over the very, very solid Jessica Pegula was a surprise, although with a first-serve percentage of points won below 50% in the first set, Pegula put herself behind the eight-ball.
Garcia vs Sabalenka Head-to-Head
|28 (Oct. 16, 1993)||Age||24 (May 5, 1998)|
|St-Germain-en-Laye, FRA||Birthplace||Minsk, Belarus|
|9||Career WTA Singles Titles||10|
|No. 4 (Sept. 10, 2018)||Career-Best Ranking||No. 2 (Aug. 23, 2021)|
|No. 35||Current Ranking||No. 7|
|12,276,836||Career Prize Money||$10,558,065|
|31-15||2022 Won/Loss Record||24-16|
Sabalenka Doing it Despite Double-Faults
As for Sabalenka, still only 24, the service woes continue even though she says she’s exploring every possible solution.
On the positive side, it’s definitely a LOT better than it was at the start of the season.
Despite 12 double faults – adding to her miles-long lead in that category on the WTA Tour – she was able to get past Zhang Shuai of China 6-4, 7-6 (1).
Zhang only had two double faults. But her success on second serve was at an unacceptably-low 21%. There were 11 breaks of serve in all in this one. And if Sabalenka gets broken (or breaks herself) five times against Garcia, she will lose.
The Frenchwoman has been extremely impressive on serve this week. In qualifying she was broken only once in two three-set matches.
In the main draw, in four matches, she has been broken just three times, and saved 15-of-18 break points against her serve.
Garcia vs Sabalenka Match History
|2018||Zhuhai (R1)||Outdoor Hard||6-4, 6-4||Garcia|
|2018||Beijing (R16)||Grass||5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-0||Sabalenka|
|2018||Cincinnati (R16)||Outdoor Hard||6-4, 3-6, 7-5||Sabalenka|
The two haven’t faced each other since 2018, when Garcia had her best year. In those matches after the US Open, she was ranked at her career high.
That season also was Sabalenka’s breakout year. She began 2018 ranked No. 73, and ended it near the top 10 after winning the WTA 1000 in Wuhan and the 500 in New Haven, just before the US Open.
The Belarussian would do well to remember their match in Cincinnati, rather than the one in Zhuhai.
Except perhaps for the serving.
Garcia vs Sabalenka Pick
You get the sense that Sabalenka’s survival skills in terms of her serve are going to run out in this one.
It’s not as though she’s going to solve her serving woes overnight. And with the way Garcia has been taking care of her own, plus the confidence she’s built up during the week, she may prove to be the sturdier of the two players mentally on this big occasions.
This is not a high threshold, with these two. But it’s notable all the same, and will be the key to victory.
Best Bet: A Two-Set Match (+240)