Paris is cruel to Carolina

When Carolina Marín destroyed her left knee (torn cruciate ligament and internal and external menisci) at the gates of the Tokyo Games, a thought invaded her. It could collapse, but it was true to its motto. I can because I think I can. Japan ran away but paris wasn’t that far. A shorter Olympic cycle, just enough time not to despair and recover her supreme level, the one that seemed to launch her towards her second medal. Every day is closer. At the French Open, on that same Parisian soil that he will step on in 2024, he has shown it. After losing in the final against the Chinese He Bingjiao (21-16, 9-21 and 20-22 in 1:16), she leaves without a title, but with the conviction that everything is going well, that, in a period in record time, is already among the best in the world. The trip continues (next week in Germany) and she will return to Paris.

As soon as she conquered Europe for the sixth time, in Madrid, eleven months after her serious injury, Carolina packed her bags. She resumed a path to which her talent, her mentality, her absolute superiority in the Old Continent condemned her. He returned to Asia, “where the level is going to be different”, warned his coach, Fernando Rivas, to recover his throne, world legitimacy. After what was shown this week, he has it again. He strikes fear again. That does not depend on the titles. After three weeks in the Sierra Nevada, she landed in Indonesia, where the Chinese Wang Zhiyi welcomed her by eliminating her in the round of 16. Except in Malaysia, where her ceiling was Denmark’s Line Kjaersfeldt, her progress had always been held back by Asian players. In France, despite repeating the outcome, she has changed something. At the World Cups in Tokyo, she fell to the number one in the world, Akane Yamaguchi, now eliminated in the semifinals; in the Japan Open, against the Korean An Se-young; in Canada, her best result since Madrid and until today (semi-finals), against the Taiwanese Sung Shuo-Yun; in Denmark, against the Chinese Han Yue, also defeated these days. The wall has been torn down.

He Bingjiao, who now makes the list, was about to do it at the World Cups, when he pushed Carolina to the limit. He lived an episode that today, by forgiving two match points, he feared to repeat. The woman from Huelva, then, saved four. Bingjoao, who has certified her second Super 750 in two weeks, is always a dangerous player. She has only beaten Carolina in two of the nine times they have met, but she came after beating Tai Tzu-ying, number two in the ranking and a player with whom she had a negative record of 10-2. With that confidence I went out on the track today. In the first set, which was not broken until a fit of genius from Carolinain the second, which started with a 7-0 run, and in the third, which came to dominate by 11-4.

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A silver of hope

Petite (169 centimeters) and agile, Bingjoao does not concede in defense, very intuitive, and surprises in attack, with well-selected lashes, both for timing as by direction, with the ability to find angles. You don’t need to take the initiative, but you know when to do it. He had a hard time in a first round in which he stuck to Carolina, point by point, until the final takeoff of the Spanish, propitiated by a sequence of shots to the line and shuttlecocks to the body (something that was insisted on from the band, such as looking for the Chinese backhand, also left-handed, and that allowed him to believe in the third quarter); and embroidered it in the second, dominated from start to finish between flashes of Marín, who stayed with the “ooh” from the stands (he left one of the shots of the tournament in the middle of a tough 2-9), but with a disheartening score to face the final set.

He overcame that barrier. And also the hard initial partial, but he stayed at the gates of the epic. “We have lost this final by very little. I can’t be mad at myself. I am very proud, I have improved many things this week that I want to stay. I know I’m on the road. It has been very difficult to regain confidence after the injury. I have pain every day, but that is something I live with and I have to accept”, Carolina valued after the match. From 11-4, it climbed to 11-10. From there, to a 12-12 that started an exhibition. Give and take. An excellent level on both sides of the court that should mentally reinforce the player from Huelva. Like the shouts of the public (“Carol, Carol, Carol”), who already want her 100%, or points like the one achieved for 18-18, after a rally of 50 hits that had his mother, in the stands with the same red shirt she wore in Madrid (“come on, Carol”), with her hand on her heart. Like Carolina, she will return to Paris. And they will be ready.

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