Defending Champion Bianca Andreescu Withdraws From Indian Wells - UBITENNIS
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Defending Champion Bianca Andreescu Withdraws From Indian Wells

There will be a new champion in Indian Wells this year!

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The return of US Open champion Bianca Andreescu to the WTA Tour has been delayed once again after she pulled out of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

 

Andreescu, who is yet to play a match in 2020, was hoping to be fit in time to play at the Premier event. Where she won her first professional title 12 months ago after defeating Angelique Kerber in the final. The 19-year-old has been sidelined from the tour since suffering a knee injury during the WTA Finals last November.

“As many of you know, I’ve been working through an injury I suffered last year during the WTA Finals. It’s been a long road to recovery and while I was looking forward to getting back on court and defending my title at Indian Wells, unfortunately I’m still not 100%.” The Canadian said in a press release.

There had originally been hope that Andreescu would be ready in time to play in Indian Wells, which officially gets underway on Monday. Her coach Sylvain Bruneau previously said that the recovery was going well, but they were staying cautious. In the build up to her latest decision, Andreescu travelled to Palm Springs in California to test out her knee.

“Well it’s been a long road, a long recovery, but… it’s going well, especially recently, we’ve had some really good momentum and things are in, I would say, good shape,” Bruneau told Sportsnet.ca on March 3rd.
“She’s just going to start competing when she’s… ability- and health-wise, totally ready and we’re gonna take no risk. So we’re hoping it’s going to be good to go for Indian Wells, but we need a few more days.”

Currently ranked 4th in the world, Andreescu will soon be dropping out of the world’s top 10 due to being unable to defend the 1000 points she won in the tournament last year. It is the latest setback for the youngster, who also withdrew from three out of her last six tournaments in 2019 due to injury-related problems.

Three out of the four women to reach the semi-finals in Indian Wells last year have now pulled out of the tournament. Also absent is Simona Halep and Kerber. 2015 champion Halep is out with a foot injury and Kerber is recovering from a left leg injury.

Ash Barty will be the top seed in the draw, but she is yet to go beyond the fourth round of the tournament in her career.

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Elise Mertens sets up Linz final against her doubles partner Aryna Sabalenka

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Number 2 seed and two-time US Open quarter finalist Elise Mertens came back from one set down in her 2-6 6-1 7-5 win over number 4 Ekaterina Aleksandrova 2-6 6-1 7-5 after 2 hours and 5 minutes to reach the final at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz. Mertens will face Aryna Sabalenka, who beat Barbora Krejikova 7-5 4-6 6-3 in the second semifinal.

 

Mertens reached the Prague Open final, the Western and Southern Open semifinals and the US Open in a successful post-covid season. Aleksandrova beat 2020 Roland Garros Nadia Podorska 6-2 6-1 in the quarter finals. 

The Russian player won the Shenzhen Open and reached the St. Petersburg semifinal. She did not drop a set en route to the semifinals. 

The Belgian player was beaten by Aleksandrova 6-4 6-2 in their only previous clash on grass at the s’Hertogenbosch Open. 

Aleksandrova earned two breaks and served out the first set 6-2 on her first chance. Mertens went up a 4-0 lead with a double break and sealed the second set, when Aleksandrova made a backhand error. Mertens converted her fourth break point in the eighth game to seal the third set, when Aleksandrova made a backhand error. 

Mertens set up a final clash against her doubles partner Aryna Sabalenka, who battled past former Doubles world number 1 Barbora Krejikova 7-5 4-6 6-3. Sabalenka ended the year in the top 10 for the first time in her career. With a win in the final against Mertens Sabalenka would tie Simona Halep for most titles won this year. Sabalenka clinched two WTA titles earlier this season in Doha and Ostrava. The Belarusian player has not dropped a set in her three mathces this week against Jasmine Paolini, Stefanie Voegele and Oceane Dodin. 

Sabalenka and Krejikova traded breaks in the fourth and fifth games of the opening set. Sabalenka sealed the first set 7-5. Sabalenka earned an early break in the second game to take a 2-0 lead. Kreijikova broke back in the third game. The Czech player sealed the second set with a break at love in the ninth game to win the second set 6-4 forcing the match to the third set. Both players saved a break point in the first seven games. Krejikova came back from 0-40 down in the eighth game but Sabalenka converted her fourth break point at deuce to win the third set 6-3 on her first match point. 

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Aryna Sabalenka, Elise Mertens and Dayana Yastremska lead the field in Linz

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Aryna Sabalenka, Elise Mertens and Dayana Yastremska grab the headlines at the Upper Austria Ladies in Linz, the final tournament of the WTA Tour season. 

 

World number 15 and top seed Sabalenka will be aiming to win her third title of the season after Doha and Ostrava. She beat Jennifer Brady in the semifinal and US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka in the final in Ostrava. 

Sabalenka will start her Linz campaign against world number 94 Jasmine Paolini from Italy and could face Lexington finalist Jill Teichmann in the quarter final. 

Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska has been drawn in the top half of the draw. The number 3 seed reached her first Premier-level final in Adelaide. Since the tour resumed last August Yastremska has reached the quarter final in Palermo and beat Venus Williams at the Western and Southern Open in New York, but lost to US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady in Ostrava. Yastremska won three WTA titles in Hobart, Thailand and Strasbourg in 2019.

This year’s US Open quarter finalist Elise Mertens from Belgium will open her Linz campaign qualifier Anhelina Kalinina before a second-round match against either Vera Zvonareva or Ukrainian teenage Marta Kostyuk, who broke into the top 100 for the first time in her career. Mertens and Sabalenka lifted their first US doubles title in 2019 and the Ostrava doubles trophy last October.

Mertens stopped 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin’s Grand Slam winning streak at the US Open to reach her second consecutive US Open quarter final before losing to eventual finalist Victoria Azarenka.  

Last year’s Linz champion Coco Gauff will not defend her title as she ended her season after losing to Sabalenka in the third round in Ostrava. 

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How Will ‘Healthy’ Andreescu Deal With Expectation In 2021?

Bianca Andreescu will look to deal with the expectation of being a grand slam title when she returns in the new year.

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Bianca Andreescu (@toisports - Twitter)

After missing the 2020 season due to injury, Bianca Andreescu will enter the 2021 season healthy and with a lot of expectation after a breakout 2019 season.

 

In a year, which has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the WTA season has seen proof of how strong the depth is on the tour.

There have been two new grand slam champions crowned in Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek as well as the rejuvenation of Victoria Azarenka’s career as well as many other players making their mark on the tour.

However one player, we have not seen in 2020 is Bianca Andreescu with the 20 year-old Canadian taking the year to nurse her knee and foot injuries.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Andreescu used the hiatus to continue her rehabilitation of her knee injury suffered at the 2019 WTA Finals. Just as it looked like Andreescu was ready to defend her US Open title a foot injury derailed her comeback.

However it looks the US Open champion looks to be ready for the 2021 season, “I’m doing really well,” Andreescu told Alize Lim in the latest episode of Major Talk.

“The virus kind of pushed me back, and some little personal things here and there, but right now I’m good, I’m training hard, I’m really looking forward to 2021.

“I’m perfectly healthy. I just really wanted to take time to build everything in my life and I think this time off really helped me do that.

“I wouldn’t say I am ready tomorrow to play a match because I am taking it step by step, but maybe in a couple of weeks I will be good. I don’t want to rush anything but I’m feeling good.”

Practicing at the Patrick Mouratoglou Academy and in Monaco, Bianca Andreescu looks to be fitter than before as she looks to return in Australia in 2021.

But the question now is how will Andreescu deal with the expectation that will be placed on her shoulders.

Having won three titles in 2019 including the US Open, Bianca Andreescu looked unstoppable when fully healthy. Her mentality, confidence and variety on the tennis court gives her all the tools to outsmart her opponents.

The only problem is that she isn’t the only player who has these attributes on the WTA Tour with the likes of Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek now proving that they can perform with conviction on the biggest stages.

It is now a stronger WTA Tour that Andreescu has to battle against in a bid to prove that she is the strongest player of the current generation. Her and Naomi Osaka are being looked at to win 5-10 grand slams, the pressure is now on to deliver when it matters.

We will find out in 2021, whether Andreescu can mentally and physically deal with being a consistent world class player. The Canadian will play the Australian Open, which starts on the 18th of January.

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