One of the freshest faces on the WTA tour frequently produces her best tennis at the Mutua Madrid Open. After notching up her second victory in the Caja Mágica and underlining her new maturity as the world number 7 at 24 years of age, Caroline García (Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France; 1993) spoke of the importance of the Madrid clay to her sporting career. The French player, who has Spanish grandparents and enjoys a close relationship with the Iberian Peninsula, is starting to turn heads at this year’s tournament. With a game well-suited to the altitude of the Spanish capital and riding a wave on the back of her recent success, she is enjoying every moment in the Spanish capital.
You seem to be relaxed in the Caja Mágica.
I feel good in Madrid. I got two wins in two sets. I could have won faster today, but it was a very good first part of the match and then I got a little less aggressive and she came back, but I fought well at the end of the second set and I managed to win it in two sets. I’m happy with these two wins, but I know it’s a very difficult tournament, there are a lot of tough players and everyone is very motivated to have a good clay season. It’s a very interesting tournament and I want to give everything I have.
What do you like most about the Mutua Madrid Open?
I like Spain in general, I always feel comfortable here. I did my preseason in Spain and before Stuttgart too. I couple of family members always come and see me in this tournament too. Maybe my last name always brings me more support, often people start to talk to me in Spanish and I always feel welcome in Madrid. I feel good and the conditions are great so I’m very happy to be here.
The first time you came here you reached the quarter-finals, you left a very good impression on the city.
Yeah! I was coming from Bogota when I won my first WTA title and then I did well in the Fed Cup. I came through qualifying and I really liked the conditions here, it was bouncing high and quite fast so it was good for my game. Then I got a little bit lucky with a second-round walkover with Maria Kirilenko. Then I managed to beat Sara Errani, it was a good match for me and I was really going for my shots and being very aggressive. It was a good memory for me, it was my first quarter-final in a WTA Premier Mandatory tournament so it was very special.
Madrid has a lot of affection for you, what’s your best memory of the city?
Well, the first edition for me, when I reached the quarter-finals was important. Also the doubles when we won in 2016 with Kristina [Mladenovic]. It was a big title for us, the biggest we won and we had some very good matches so that was also a very good memory.
Yesterday we saw you having some fun alongside Martin Berasategui. Is cooking one of your passions?
Yeah, I like to try to cook and do some different things. First of all I love food so I’m always very happy to be in Spain. The gastronomy is excellent, even if it’s not always very healthy! When you cook you are just focused on what you’re doing and in the present so it’s very good for clearing my mind, so that’s why I like to do those kinds of things.
This year you are a contender at every tournament. How are you handling the pressure?
It’s been different since the beginning of the year, being top 10, there are more external expectations, more things to do, more media. I’m learning every week. Every week I’m trying to deal with it better, but it’s not always easy to focus on your tournament and your matches, but it’s a work in progress and it’s certainly a good problem to have because it means you are high in the rankings.
You made the semi-finals in Stuttgart and you beat Sharapova, do you believe you can beat the big names regularly?
I’m just trying to focus on my game and on myself and I don’t really worry about the opponent. I know it’s going to be a tough match if she’s top 10 but also if she’s top 50 or 100 so I prepare the same for all my matches. Of course it was a big match against Sharapova but also against Svitolina and it was good for me to win that match.
Finally… what would it mean for you to win the Mutua Madrid Open?
Well, there’s still a very long way to go, but Madrid is a Premier Mandatory event and one of the biggest tournaments on the WTA Tour so it would definitely mean my game is ready and getting better. To win in Europe is always special and even more so in Madrid.