June 24, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Andreescu prevails in marquee matchup

MIAMI, Fla. – Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu weren’t the two most recent US Open champions in Miami. They weren’t even the only ones in the draw, with 2017 winner Sloane Stephens in (and then out, to Shelby Rogers).

But the fact that both were unseeded in a draw with 32 seeds, and meeting in the first round no less, tells you without knowing the finer details that both have fallen on challenging times since then.

Andreescu, 22, got through the Open summit at Hard Rock Stadium 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, and now moves on to a second-round meeting with No. 7 seed Maria Sakkari.

The Canadian got through in part on some clutch play, some vintage Andreescu creativity, and a stubborn refusal to capitulate that was a welcome development after matches this year in which she started splendidly, but couldn’t keep the negative emotions away.

“What I did well was just sticking with it. I’m just going to use that word today because it could have went either way. I just held in the points, tried to be aggressive when I could. Yeah, I think my serve went well today. I hit seven aces, which is very rare for me, no double-faults, so I’m very pleased,” Andreescu said afterwards.

Here’s what else she said.

Raducanu just wasn’t able to break her – and she had 12 opportunities, more than Andreescu herself did on Raducanu’s serve. The Brit converted … one.

Andreescu also put up seven aces, as Raducanu had an intermittent dialogue with her team outlining the struggles she was having with an ongoing wrist issue that she dealt with, more successfully, in Indian Wells.

But at times on Wednesday, she was shaking out her right hand, flexing all the fingers. She often told her people that she had “no feeling”, whether it was the balls fluffing up or just troubles with the hand. At one point, she even told them she was playing with one arm.

“It’s something I’ve been managing for some time. And, yeah, I just need to review after this tournament really and figure out what my next steps are,” Raducanu said. “We have been
managing it, keeping on top of it. I’m able to play in the short term. But the current solutions aren’t very viable long-term.”

Raducanu also had her moments, probably out of sheer determination as she upped the velocity on her groundstrokes in the second set, and took it.

Raducanu often shook out her right wrist and flexed her hand, opening and closing the fingers, during the loss to Andreescu in Miami Wednesday.

But she couldn’t keep it up. And Andreescu was not to be denied on this day.

It was a day tailor-made to pique the Canadian’s motivation and determination – a stadium court match against a fellow Grand Slam champion.

They’re not all like that. But Andreescu was proud that she was able to keep the emotional devil at bay. More than that, she said, she didn’t even have to full-out convince herself that all was well and to keep fighting – at least, not as much as she has had to in recent times.

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It was a solid match overall, with plenty of flashes of that well-chosen Andreescu creativity. And, also, seven aces.

Andreescu didn’t play Miami a year ago; she was on a break and only began her season in Stuttgart in April.

But the previous year, mid-pandemic in 2021, she reached the final. Then ranked No. 9, she defeated Amanda Anisimova (No. 32) in three sets, Garbiñe Muguruza (No. 13) in three sets. And then in the one of the most brutally physical matches she has ever played, she got past Sakkari (No. 25), 7-6 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (4) to reach the final against Ashleigh Barty.

(She had to retire in that final with a foot issue, and didn’t play for another two months).

It’s basically all teal, all the time as Andreescu smashes an ice bag to separate the cubes during her match against Raducanu. She’ll probably need a shipload of them for her second-round match against Sakkari, if their history in Miami is any indication).

But that match against Sakkari was something. And given Sakkari was playing better then with a lower ranking than she has now, and Andreescu was playing better then with a higher ranking, the dynamics are different.

But it still could be just as compelling.

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