Unseeded Caroline Garcia of France won her second title in as many weeks as she stunned new world No. 1 Simona Halep in a closely-fought final of the China Open on Sunday.
Garcia is in the form of her life and edged out the Romanian second seed 6-4, 7-6 (3) to add the China Open to the Wuhan Open title she lifted last weekend, making it five WTA crowns in all.
Garcia’s feat was all the more remarkable because she was carrying a leg injury that has required frequent on-court treatment and completed a mammoth three-set quarter-final win well past midnight on Friday evening.
The 23-year-old, who is set to rise from number 15 to nine in the world, sank to her knees in relief when she finally sealed victory in the second-set tiebreak.
“I was like, ‘Seriously, this really happened?'” Garcia said of what thoughts came to mind after she won on her first match point.
“I mean, it was such an amazing two weeks. It went so fast. I have the feeling I started these tournaments yesterday or two days ago. To play every single day, it was just after every match you had to forget about what happened and be on the present again.
“Even this morning I couldn’t believe I was in the final. Like to win it on my first match point in the tiebreak against Simona, new No. 1, it’s very difficult for me to believe. Even I looked at my dad, and it didn’t help me to relax actually.
“It’s just amazing. It’s difficult to put words on what I’m feeling right now.”
With rain teeming down outside ahead of what turned out to be a cracker, a leak in the Diamond Court stadium roof had threatened to dampen proceedings.
But that was soon fixed and there was little between the two players until Garcia broke Halep in the 10th game to grab the first set.
The 26-year-old Halep had the superior mobility — Garcia had her right thigh strapped – but the French player was making the better shots.
One forehand winner was greeted with gasps from the mostly full arena in Beijing.
The second set was even more competitive and the attritional seventh game turned out to be a turning point.
Garcia was 0-40 down on her own serve until dragging it to 40-40 and then saving half a dozen break points before somehow winning the game to go 4-3 up.
The duo raced into the tie break, but Garcia now had the momentum and she held her nerve to make it a famous Wuhan-Beijing double.
Garcia is now on an 11-match winning streak that has included two top-five victories. She is in pole position to clinch the final qualification spot for the WTA Finals in Singapore.
Between her two sensational titles runs in China, her ascension to the world’s top-10, and her potential berth in Singapore, Garcia is spoilt for choice as to which feat is more special to her.
“It’s like if you ask me to choose between ice cream, chocolate cake. It’s like, I don’t know,” she said with a smile.
“It all means something. To win a title, it always means something because you finish the week undefeated. You stay forever a winner of this tournament. So it definitely means something.
“To be in the top-10 also means something because it’s a step in your career that you want to achieve. You never know if you’re going to reach it, but it’s a very important goal. It’s mean you are a part of the top-10 best player in the world.
“To have the chance to be in the fight for Singapore, it’s something after last year in doubles give you motivation to do it in singles because, for sure, means more.”
Britain’s Johanna Konta will have to at least reach the final in Moscow next week to stop Garcia from making the season finale in Singapore.
Despite her disappointment Halep will officially become world No. 1 for the first time when the latest rankings are out on Monday.
The Romanian paid full credit to her opponent for the win.
“I consider that she won the match, I didn’t lose it. Of course, I couldn’t be, like, 100 per cent after yesterday. It was a little bit tough. I felt tired a little bit. My legs were a little bit sore,” said Halep.
“But I think I fought till the end, which I’m really happy about. She played an amazing tennis. To win two tournaments in a row, it’s a great thing. She deserved to win today. She was better.”