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Caroline Garcia bests Aryna Sabalenka for WTA Finals crown

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Caroline Garcia plopped on a cowboy hat to go with the trophy she was holding after telling fans she had enjoyed her first trip to Texas.

There was plenty for the Frenchwoman to like in Cowtown.

Garcia took a tight first set and went on to a 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory over Aryna Sabalenka to win the championship of the WTA Finals on Monday night.

The sixth-ranked Garcia became the second player from France to win the season-ending event after Amelie Mauresmo in 2005, also the last time the WTA Finals were held in the U.S.

The event was moved to Texas from China over concerns about the safety of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former government official there of sexual assault. Coronavirus restrictions also played a part in the decision.

Garcia won her last six sets after dropping the first in a winner-take-all match against Daria Kasatkina in group play. The 29-year-old is the oldest WTA Finals winner since Serena Williams at 33 in 2014.

The only player to win titles on all three surfaces this season, Garcia was just as comfortable as Sabalenka on the temporary indoor hard court at Dickies Arena near downtown Fort Worth.

As a result, Garcia handed the No. 7 player from Belarus just her third loss in 12 career hard-court finals. Sabalenka was trying to become the first player from her country to win the WTA Finals

There was only one break point in a meeting of the tour (Garcia) and tournament (Sabalenka) leaders in aces coming into the match.

Garcia converted that break point in the first game of the second set while handing No. 7 Sabalenka just her third loss in 12 career hard-court finals on the temporary indoor court at Dickies Arena.

Garcia won six consecutive points in the tiebreaker, capped by her 10th ace of the first set for a 6-2 lead. Sabalenka's third double fault ended the set. Garcia finished with 11 aces.

"It was a lot of aces, sometimes not too many rallies," Garcia told the crowd. "But that's our game style, and I hope you enjoyed it."

Sabalenka reached the title match by beating top-ranked Iga Swiatek. That semifinal victory ended a 15-match winning streak against top-10 opponents that was the longest on tour in 35 years.

Garcia matched Sabalenka's power from the start in her fourth victory of the season, second only to Swiatek's eight.

"I just dropped my level for a little bit on the tiebreak and in the first game of the second set," Sabalenka said. "That was the key moments."

Tied in the deciding game, Garcia's service winner gave her a second match point, and Sabalenka sent a forehand long. Garcia dropped to the court on her back with her arms raised.

Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens beat defending champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 4-6, 11-9 to win the doubles title in the WTA Finals on Monday night.

Kudermetova and Mertens won six consecutive points after falling behind 7-2 in the champions tiebreaker before closing things out on their second match point.

Krejcikova and Siniakova were trying to finish off a dominant season that included titles at all three of the Grand Slam events in which they competed. It was just the fourth loss of the season for the Czech duo, which was trying to become the seventh doubles team to defend a WTA Finals championship.

Kudermetova and Mertens avenged a loss to Krejcikova and Siniakova in the Australian Open semifinals.

Mertens is a three-time major winner in doubles, including the 2019 US Open and 2021 Australian Open with Sabalenka.