July 12, 2024

Open Court


MELBOURNE, Australia – Maybe there was a little reverse karma happening at Melbourne Park for Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

The 18-year-old’s 2018 summer was compromised by back woes. And it remains an ongoing situation to be managed.

But this week, as she attempted to reach her first career Australian Open main draw, two of her opponents had to retire – with back issues.

And so Andreescu essentially sailed through three qualifying rounds. It was a welcome break after she went from the qualifying to her first career WTA Tour final in Auckland last week.

It’s her second career Grand Slam main draw. Andreescu qualified for Wimbledon last summer.

Here’s what her week looked like.

Swan out with back spasms

Her first opponent, Katie Swan, had to retire with back spasms after the first set. Swan, just 19, was in tears as they worked on her before and after she was forced to retire. She never even got up to shake hands; Andreescu went over to where she was lying on the court. 

Swan left in a wheelchair.

Young Brit Katie Swan was in terrible pain with back spasms that ended with her tearfully being rolled off the court in a wheelchair. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Routine win in round 2

Andreescu’s second-round opponent, Valentini Grammatikopoulou, is a 5-foot-4 dynamo from Greece ranked No. 174, who hasn’t even earned a mug shot on her WTA Tour page yet. (Or on her ITF page, for that matter).

She has yet to advance further than the second round of qualifying at a Grand Slam. And Andreescu put out a no-nonsense, professional effort in dispatching her 6-4, 6-1.

Andreescu had no trouble with 21-year-old Greek player Valentini Grammatikopoulou (and the chair umpire, Catarina Silva of Portugal, had no trouble with either name) (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Which left one more win for the teenager to make her first Australian Open. 

Another back issue

Tereza Smitkova, 24, was inside the top 60 back in 2015. But she fell outside the top 200 before battling back to her current No. 137.

She came in with far more experience than her six-years-younger opponent, as Smitkova had already played in seven Grand Slam main draws.

But her back betrayed her as well. Smitkova lost the first set 6-0, took a medical timeout.

Tereza Smitkova played much of the second set in tears before finally retiring down a set and 4-1. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

It was clear she didn’t want to retire from the match. So Smitkova tried to keep playing even though she was clearly in distress. And it’s a lot harder to see the ball on a tennis court when you have tears rolling down your face during a match.

In the end, at 6-0, 4-1, she pulled the plug.

Osuigwe up in first round

There were 16 players already in the main draw who were awaiting the placing of the qualifiers.

They ranged from a former Grand Slam champion (Maria Sharapova) to top-ranked players expected to make big runs (Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka) to a couple of local wild cards.

In the end, Andreescu’s good karma continued.

She drew 16-year-old American Whitney Osuigwe, who’s in via the USTA’s reciprocal wild card.

16-year-old Osuigwe is making her first appearance Down Under – juniors and seniors combined. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Osuigwe has just broken into the top 200; she’s at a career-high ranking of No. 199. But she’s a former No. 1 junior who did the Eddie Herr/Orange Bowl double just over a year ago. She won the French Open junior title two months after turning 15.

Oddly, she never played the Australian Open as a junior; she opted for the early-season clay-court circuit in South America.

So this is her first trip Down Under – ever. 

Andreescu played the Aussie juniors twice. She had to withdraw before her third-round match in 2016 with a stress fracture. But she returned in 2017 and reached the semifinals in singles. She also won the doubles with Canadian-American Carson Branstine.

Anreescu and Osuigwe have never met, at either the junior or senior levels.

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