Caroline Garcia played quality tennis on Thursday in Miami. Victoria Azarenka was not able to match it. The result represents just the latest example of “piano-falling-from-the-sky-and-crushing-hopes” luck Azarenka has received in the past few years.
Of all the times for Garcia to awaken, this was not the right one for Vika.
Consider Garcia’s recent journey:
Garcia d. Azarenka, 63 64.
In the last 6 months, Caroline has beaten Ka. Pliskova, Sabalenka, Mertens, Pavlyuchenkova, and Azarenka, all in straight sets.
Yet in the same period she has lost to Barty, Kenin, Brady (3 times!), and Jorovic. 🤔
— Ed Salmon (@fogmount) March 22, 2019
Tennis fans quite understandably get upset when an upset happens which they KNOW won’t lead to something bigger for the winning player. The upset merely seems to clear a good player out of the bracket, replacing that player with someone unlikely to turn the triumph into something significant. It feels like a waste, and fans of the losing player reasonably feel a sense of barrenness in response.
Garcia-Azarenka certainly seems to check that kind of box.
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe Garcia will awaken here and come alive. Maybe this is the kick-start, the catapult, which leads to a huge spring and summer for Garcia. Maybe she will make her first major semifinal. Maybe the light will go on. Maybe we will be talking about a completely remade player at the end of 2019.
Maybe… but I doubt it. Ed Salmon’s tweet above shows how inconsistent and uninspiring Garcia’s tennis has generally been in recent months. Victoria Azarenka wasn’t playing Serena Williams in the round of 64 in Miami — that was her R-64 draw in Indian Wells. Azarenka figured to have an opponent she could defeat, and use to make a deep run at this tournament, finally moving into a seeded position for future majors and giving her the ability to make the climb up the rankings ladder so many people in tennis want to see.
We all watched the Indian Wells classic against Serena. We recalled how great Serena-Vika can be when both players are at their best. We were reminded of what a spirited rivalry looks like, even if only one player wins a vast majority of the time.
Azarenka ascending in tennis would be a big plus for the sport, and yet here is Caroline Garcia — doing her job, doing it well on one day — getting in the way.
Don’t blame Garcia — she is only doing what she is trying to do, earnestly and imperfectly. Credit to her: On this day, she found solutions. On this day, she found answers. On this day, she found the finish line.
It is Azarenka’s amazingly bad luck that it happened.
A climb up the rankings — to a place where Serena will be a semifinal opponent, not an R-32 or R-64 opponent, at future big tournaments — will simply have to wait.
What will also have to wait: a reunion between Azarenka and good fortune. Someone needs to arrange a date.