It seems surreal that Bianca Andreescu has achieved history in only her fourth main draw appearance in a grand slam tournament.
Taking on Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic in the semi-finals of the US Open on Thursday, the 19-year-old battled to a 7-6(3), 7-5, win during what was a roller coaster encounter. After coming through a tough opener, she recovered from a 1-4 deficit in the second set by breaking Bencic four consecutive times on route to the milestone victory. Becoming Canada’s first ever singles finalist at Flushing Meadows.
“It wasn’t easy at all. She hits the ball really hard and really flat I think every shot. My knees were to the ground. I think it wasn’t too fun playing her. But that’s what makes her such a great player.” Andreescu said of Bencic.
“I’m just really glad with how I managed that. I tried to change the rhythm as much as possible. That was the goal right from the beginning of the match.’
“But it wasn’t easy. When someone is hitting flat and deep, it’s hard to do that. But the main reason I won I think is because I just kept fighting. I never let up.”
The win is the latest stage of Andreescu’s meteoric rise in the world of women’s tennis. Prior to this season, she had never broken into the world’s top 100 or won a WTA title. Yet over the past nine months she has blossomed into one of the most notable players in the sport. It all started back in January where she reached the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland, which she lost to Julia Goerges. Gaining in belief and momentum, two months later she won her first trophy in Indian Wells before claiming the Rogers Cup trophy in August. Even more impressive was that between those two titles, she was sidelined from the tour for almost five months due to injury.
“I’ve always dreamt of this moment ever since I was a little kid. But I don’t think many people would have actually thought that it would become a reality.” She said of reaching her first grand slam final.
“I think for me, it all started in Auckland, then in Indian Wells. I just kept believing in myself. But I think that moment after the match, I was just in shock. At the same time I fought really hard to get to this point, so I really think I deserve to be in the finals on Saturday.”
One notable thing about the teenager is her confidence. She feels like she deserves and belong to play in a major final. Speaking candidly in her press conference she said she would have ‘believed’ somebody if they tipped her to reach a grand slam final leading into this year’s tournament.
Andreescu has become somewhat of a big time player. She is yet to lose against a top 10 player after winning all seven of those meetings. More notable was six out of those seven victories took place on North American hard courts.
In order to claim the biggest title of her career, Andreescu needs to get past Serena William in the final. Somebody who won their maiden US Open title the year before she was even born. Their only previous meeting on the tour lasted just 19 minutes after Williams was forced to retire due to injury.
“I remember watching her when I was about 10. I don’t remember specifically a moment. I watched her win most of her Grand Slam titles.” She said of the former world No.1
“I think she’s fighting for her 24th on Saturday. I’m sure she’s going to bring her A game.’
“I’m going to try to bring my A game, too. Hopefully I guess may the best player win.”
Despite her rapid rise, Andreescu heads into the final as very much the underdog. Given the fact it is Williams’ home grand slam and that she has a wealth of experience. However, she refuses to accept anything less than victory. Providing a glimpse of the mentality that has helped her achieve so much success this season.
“I think it’s just inside of me somehow. I think it’s just my passion for the game, as well. I don’t like to lose, so I just try my best every match.” She explained.
“I expect a lot from myself, so I think that pressure also helps me do my best in matches.”
The women’s final will take place on Saturday.
Last-minute Change Of Plan Key To Petra Kvitova’s Australian Open Surge
The former world No.1 and her mentor believes a decision made earlier this month was a blessing in disguise.
Petra Kvitova’s winning run at this year’s Australian Open has been aided her the decision to miss one of the lead-up tournaments to the event, according to her coach Jiri Vanek.
The two-time Wimbledon champion is through to the quarter-finals in Melbourne after fighting back to defeat Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2, on Sunday. The rollercoaster encounter saw the Czech player drop her serve at the start of the first two sets before she found her footing on the court. Although it was far from perfect performance from Kvitova, who hit a total of 46 unforced errors compared to 33 winners. Furthermore, she was also fragile behind her second serve as she could only win 39% of the points.
“I think from the beginning, there were a lot of nerves out there. I didn’t feel the best. I was just too tight and everything was flying somewhere.” Kvitova reflected during her press conference.
“As the time went on I got used to (the match) and I started to play a little bit better, more free.”
“At the end of the day was about fighting spirit in a way. Even I didn’t play the best, Maria played really great tennis, and it was nice to share court with her.” She added.
Besides taking on Sakkari on the court, Kvitova also had to contend with an animated crowd. The Greek fans were out in full force with numerous cheers and chanting erupting. Although the seventh seed insisted that she was not intimidated by it.
“When I was shaking the hand with the umpire, I told him it was like a soccer match today.” She said.
“It’s nice on one side. On the other side, it’s tennis, and not a Fed Cup (tie).”
Kvitova, who was runner-up to Naomi Osaka in the tournament last year, is through to the quarter-finals in Melbourne for only the fourth time in her career. Prior to Sakkari, she also scored straight sets wins over Paula Badosa, Kateřina Siniaková and Ekaterina Alexandrova earlier in the week.
Assessing Kvitova’s performance so far, coach Vanek believes her recent withdrawal from the Adelaide International was a blessing in disguise.
“This year she has started pretty good the season. In Brisbane she made the semifinal. Lost a close match to Madison (Keys). We decided to take the rest a little bit and prepare her for the Melbourne. So I’m happy for her that it worked pretty well here.” He said.
The next challenge for the Czech comes in the shape of either world No.1 Ash Barty or Alison Riske. Two players she has lost to on a hard court during the 2019 season (Barty three times and Riske once). However, her team insists that she is under no pressure to match her run to the final of the event last year.
“The pressure doesn’t change, I don’t think. But we are not talking about it. She’s taking it just match after match and we just looking who is the other opponent, and that’s it.” Vanek stated.
Kvitova is just one out of four top 10 players left in the women’s draw. She is bidding to become the first Czech player to win the Australian Open since Hana Mandlíková In 1987, who represented the former Czechoslovakia.
Karolina Pliskova And Belinda Bencic Join Mass Exodus Of Seeds At Australian Open
The list of upsets in the women’s draw at the Australian Open grew ever longer as Karolina Pliskova and Belinda Bencic lost.
It was all going so well for the seeded players in the Women’s Singles at the 2020 Australian Open. 21 of them made it through to the last 32. And, for the first time since 2007, that contingent included all of the top ten.
Then the third round began on day five and all hell broke loose. First, 8th seed Serena Williams lost to Wang Qiang. Then 10th seed Madison Keys was defeated by Maria Sakkari. And, as if that was not already enough for one day, 3rd seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka was knocked out by Coco Gauff.
It is now day six, and 2nd seed Karolina Pliskova and 6th seed Belinda Bencic have joined the list of high-profile casualties in round three due to losses to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Anett Kontaveit respectively.
The Czech, 27, competed very strongly with her Russian opponent throughout. She matched her in almost every department, and both sets of the match went to a tie-break.
However, Pavlyuchenkova outgunned Pliskova in both tie-breaks with some impressive ball-striking as she hit a series of winners to earn a 7-6(4) 7-6(3) victory over the 2nd seed.
Bencic has a day to forget
Bencic experienced something of a waking nightmare. She made ten unforced errors and won just ten points as she lost the first set 6-0 to Kontaveit in just 21 minutes.
The second set started in a similar fashion. The Swiss lost the first three games and faced the embarrassing prospect of joining the list of players who have suffered a 6-0 6-0 loss in a Grand Slam if she did not get her act together.
Then Bencic finally won a game to make it 3-1. After that, she competed much better with the Estonian for the remainder of the match. But of course, by then it was much too late. Kontaveit completed a dominant 6-0 6-1 win in 49 minutes.
Donna Vekic was due to meet the Swiss in the fourth round if both players made it that far. Ultimately, neither did, as the Croatian also sustained a surprising loss when she went down 7-5 6-3 to 18-year-old rising star Iga Swiatek.
The defeats of Pliskova and Bencic mean that five of the top ten have now departed from the draw at the last-32 stage. 5th seed Elina Svitolina and 9th seed Kiki Bertens play this evening. Will they survive or will they join the ever-growing list of top players that have suffered unexpected exits?
Sofia Kenin sets up clash with Cori Gauff in Melbourne
Number 14 seed Sofia Kenin battled past China’s Zhang Shuai 7-5 7-6 (9-7) in a late-night hard-fought match to book her spot in the Australian Open fourth round against Cori Gauff.
Kenin reached the third round for the first time at this tournament without dropping a set. The US 21-year-old player fought back from a set point down twice in the opening set. She went down a break early in the second set before taking the tie-break.
Zhang went up a 3-0 lead in the opening set and saved five break points in a hard-fought fifth game. Kenin broke back with two forehands to draw level, as Zhang was serving for the set. The US player completed the come-back by winning five consecutive games from 2-5 down to win the opening set 7-5.
Both players traded breaks twice in the second set en route to the tie-break. Kenin earned a mini-break on the ninth point before winning the tie-break on the third match point to set up a fourth round match against Cori Gauff, who beat defending champion Naomi Osaka.
“It’s late, but I am happy to have gone through and I am really excited. I was just fighting. There were a lot of close shots, so I needed to step up my game and I am so proud of myself. I was not aware that I was playing Gauff. She is playing really well. She had a great 2019 season. I am going to enjoy the moment right now”, said Kenin.
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