Bianca Andreescu continued her fairytale run in Indian Wells with a remarkable 6-3 2-6 6-4 win over Elina Svitolina in a thrilling semi-final.
The Canadian, 18, beat Dominika Cibulkova, Wang Qiang and Garbine Muguruza on her way to the semi-final, and she never looked daunted by the challenge of facing the Ukrainian.
“This is so incredible,” Andreescu said in her on-court interview. “This past week has been a dream come true. (I have loved) playing in front of amazing crowds like you guys.”
She continued, “Today I just believed in myself. I’ve watched these top players so many times on TV so it’s really incredible to play against them – and win!”
In the first three games of the match, Andreescu simply hit the ball as hard as she could and Svitolina absorbed the power and re-directed the ball sensibly.
This led to numerous errors from the Canadian and enabled the Ukrainian to move into a 3-0 lead.
However, Andreescu gathered herself at the changeover and came out with a different plan. She continued to hit the ball powerfully but the direction of her shots was far more intelligent.
The teenager also mixed things up. She sliced the ball at times, hit cross-court when she had previously gone down the line and came into the net occasionally.
She also dictated the play, and Svitolina simply could not handle her dramatic improvement. Consequently, Andreescu reeled off seven consecutive games to take the first set 6-3 and go 1-0 up in the second set.
Svitolina takes her chances to hit back
Perhaps inevitably, the Canadian could not sustain the same level forever. She made a string of errors to drop her serve to love and enable the Ukrainian to gain a foothold in the match.
Svitolina took advantage of this lull from Andreescu with a steady hold to move 2-1 ahead. That scoreline gave the World No.6 a platform to attack the Canadian in game four, and she did this to good effect to earn two break points.
Andreescu saved one and Svitolina wasted the other, but the game was not over yet. The Ukrainian got the better of a pulsating rally to earn another break point, and the Canadian netted a backhand to surrender her serve.
Svitolina made a couple of sloppy errors in the next game to gift Andreescu two break points. However, she re-focused, saved them both and went on to hold serve for a 4-1 lead.
Both players faced a few difficulties in their next service games, but both safely negotiated them to move the score on to 5-2 in the Ukrainian’s favour.
By this stage, it seemed like Svitolina knew how to deal with the type of shots Andreescu likes to play. She repeatedly read the Canadian’s intentions in game eight, and this enabled her to hit winners on the big points and break the teenager to clinch the set.
Andreescu starts the decider impressively but Svitolina fights back
Svitolina made a few poor decisions in the opening game of the decider. Andreescu pounced on these. She stepped inside the court and hit winners to break the Ukrainian. The Canadian then consolidated her advantage with a comfortable hold.
However, the World No.6 has experienced most situations in her eight years on the senior tour, and she did not panic. She played a series of smart points to hold serve, and then put pressure on the teenager by forcing a break point.
Andreescu saved it in trademark aggressive style. She then unleashed a string of big groundstrokes to secure an important hold and stay two games ahead at 3-1.
Svitolina responded superbly again. She played four commanding points to hold serve to love. She then put massive pressure on the Canadian’s serve by getting everything back and was rewarded with three break points.
The Ukrainian narrowly missed with a backhand down the line on the first. She then netted a backhand return on the second. But she took the third by drawing another error from Andreescu’s racket to level the score.
Andreescu pounces when Svitolina falters
At 30-30 in game seven, Svitolina made an unforced error. It cost her dearly, as the Canadian crunched a forehand winner to seize her second break of the set.
The World No.6 earned three break-back points by targeting Andreescu’s weaker forehand side. However, she missed a volley on the first one and the teenager saved the next two emphatically. She then won the next two points to move within one game of another big win in her young career.
In game nine, Svitolina eased to a 40-15 lead. However, the Ukrainian made two consecutive unforced errors to give the teenager a chance of a break.
Andreescu hit a powerful winner to earn match point, but just missed with another attempted put-away that would have ended proceedings. She kept going for her shots during the rest of the game, but Svitolina eventually held.
The Canadian made a couple of sloppy errors to fall 15-30 behind on her serve. She then advanced to the net on the next point and could only watch as the Ukrainian guided the ball past her.
Andreescu dug deep to save both break points. She then earned two more match points, which Svitolina saved with gutsy winners. However, the Ukrainian could not keep up these heroics, and on the Canadian’s fourth match point, the World No.6 netted a backhand. What a win for the teenager.
[Also published on womenssporthub.com]
Naomi Osaka Ends Title Drought With Pan Pacific Open Win
The 21-year-old has captured her fourth WTA title in the city where she was born.
Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka has returned back to the winner’s circle after easing to the Pan Pacific Open title on Sunday with a straight sets win.
The two-time grand slam champion disposed of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3, in just 70 minutes. Claiming her first title of any sort since winning the Australian Open in January. Osaka was dominant behind her serve throughout the final. Winning all 20 of her first service points and dropping just six points behind her second. The top seed hit 22 winners to 12 unforced errors and broke Pavlyuchenkova three times.
“It is really special for me to win here (in Osaka). This is the city where I was born. I think that gave me a lot of power to play constantly match after match.” Said the new champion.
Prior to this week, the 21-year-old hadn’t progressed beyond the quarter-final stage of a tournament since April. She managed to end that trend on Saturday after being forced to play two matches due to poor weather affecting the tournament schedule. Recording wins over Yulia Putintseva and Elise Mertens. Osaka didn’t drop a single set in the entire tournament.
“I just wanted to win this really bad,” Osaka stated during her Sunday press conference.
“I think what I learned from this tournament is just to focus every point, and just to have really positive energy,” she later added.
There is also reason to celebrate for runner-up Pavlyuchenkova, who is yet to win a WTA title in Asia. This week is the first time she has reached a WTA final in 15 months. Last doing so at the 2018 Internationaux de Strasbourg in France. Earlier in the tournament she knocked out second seed Kiki Bertens and fourth seed Angelique Kerber.
“It is not the trophy you want standing here, but it has still been an amazing week.” The Russian reflected during the trophy ceremony.
“Congratulations Naomi you were really good today and played the better tennis.”
Osaka is the first Japanese player to win the Pan Pacific Open since Kimiko Date back in 1995. She exits the tournament with 470 ranking points and $137,125 in prize money.
Sam Stosur Produces Comeback To Reach First WTA Final For 28 Months In Guangzhou
Sam Stosur reached her first WTA final for two and a half years with a three set win over Viktorija Golubic in Guangzhou.
Sam Stosur came from a set down to beat Viktorija Golubic 2-6 7-6(4) 6-1 to reach her first WTA final in two and a half years.
After losing the first set in comfortable fashion and surrendering her early break lead in the second set, the Australian fought back to reach the Guangzhou final.
The win means that Stosur will now compete in her first WTA final for two and a half years, when she won the Strasbourg title in 2017.
Speaking after the match the former US Open was delighted with the way she rallied back into the contest, “I just tried to hang in there and find a way to start playing a bit better,” she told the WTA website.
“She’s very tough to play against so I’m just happy to get through. This is where everyone wants to be, so to now make it to the final, I’m really happy and I’ll give it my best shot tomorrow.”
Having reached the final, she will now re-enter the world’s top 100 and compete for the 10th title of her career, which would be her first on hard courts since 2014.
Standing in Stosur’s way will be world number 20 Sofia Kenin after the American edged out Anna Blinkova 7-6(5) 4-6 6-1 in a tight contest.
Six breaks of serve was enough for Kenin as she aims to win her third title of the season having won in Hobart and Mallorca this season.
Seeds Deliver In Seoul As Rain Halts Play In Osaka
Meanwhile in the Seoul, the seeds managed to deliver to book their spots in the semi-finals. Yafan Wang, Karolina Muchova and Magda Linette all cruised into the last four in South Korea.
Although second seed Ekaterina Alexandrova had to survive a big scare against in-form Kristie Ahn with the Russian edging through 6-7(0) 6-4 6-4.
However there was a bleak day in Osaka, Japan where only one match was completed as three of the quarter-finals will have to be played tomorrow.
The one result saw Angelique Kerber reach the semi-finals having lead Madison Keys 6-4 4-6 2-1 before the American retired.
Tomorrow will be Kerber’s first WTA semi-final since reaching the final in Eastbourne in June.
Serena Williams Confident In Bid For Grand Slam History Claims Patrick Mouratoglou
Patrick Mouratoglou says that Serena Williams is confident of another grand slam victory despite recent setbacks.
Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that the American is confident in her bid for more grand slam history.
Despite the American not winning a set in her last four grand slam finals, Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that she is still confident in winning another grand slam again.
Serena’s last grand slam win was at the Australian Open in 2017 before taking a break from the sport to become a mother.
Although it has been a struggle, Mouratoglou believes time is on the 37 year old’s side, “I think time is working for her,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports.
“I think she was much better at the US Open than she was at Wimbledon and Wimbledon better than Roland Garros.
“She is getting back in shape and the more in shape she will be the more dangerous she will be. I think she has started to play really good tennis.”
Losses to Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu have exposed Serena’s lack of confidence and how nervous she is in the grand slam finals.
However Mouratoglou believes that Serena’s historic moment will come sooner rather than later, “It is one match for history and the pressure is quite high,” he said.
“I am not in her mind but I can figure she is playing one match for history. This is the highest pressure anyone can have in life and on the other side of the court she plays girls who have zero pressure because it is their first final.
“They are going to play many [Grand Slams], they are young, they are excited, enthusiastic so they play without pressure and that makes a big difference. But at some point she will figure out how to deal with that.”
Serena’s next tournament is scheduled to be the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in late October, should she qualify although there is a good possibility that we won’t be seeing on a tennis court until next year.
Will 2020 be the year that Serena finally figures out how to deal with the pressure of creating more history for herself? Only time will tell.
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