INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Bianca Andreescu has had a lot of “Wow, did that actually happen?” moments in 2019.
She began the season beating Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams – both Grand Slam champions and former No. 1s – in her opening tournament.
But making the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open – a Premier Mandatory event, one step below the majors – was not on the radar.
And yet, the 18-year-old has made it look easy. From the outside, at least.
A 7-5, 6-2 victory over No. 18 seed Qiang Wang of China puts her in the final eight, to play No. 20 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain Wednesday afternoon.
Andreescu has already defeated No. 32 seed Dominika Cibulkova and former top-30 player Irina-Camelia Begu on the way. If there’s a thread between those three impressive wins, is that Andreescu’s opponents were not playing the tennis they played when they have been at their very best.
That is true of Muguruza as well. The former French Open and Wimbledon champion has been a shadow of her former championship self in the last couple of years.
Here’s how Andreescu vs. Wang looked on Tuesday.
Muguruza getting back her best form?
The Spanish No. 1’s ranking hasn’t dropped precipitously. But she has had some bad losses – some cringe-worthy on-court coaching consults, and some injuries here and there.
Who knows what might have happened, had Muguruza faced a Serena Williams who was 100 per cent healthy in the round?
For all we know, Andreescu might have had an opportunity to share the stadium court with the greatest of all time. But the victory gave Muguruza wings, in a sense. And she was able to back it up with a comeback win over No. 7 seed Kiki Bertens in the fourth round.
Muguruza has only beaten one top-20 player over the last 12 months. That’s hard to believe, but it also means that as she has remained a seeded player more often than not, she’s not gotten to the pointy end of the bigger tournaments. That player was then-No. 11 Anastasija Sevastova, last October in Zhuhai.
In this tournament, she has beaten top-10 players back to back.
So the narrative of how the biggest match of Andreescu’s career is going to go will very much be dictated by which version of Muguruza shows up to play.
Andreescu had nothing but praise for Muguruza, while still feeling she has a shot.
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Bianca Andreescu had faced Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele once, on the practice court in Australia earlier this year.
The 18-year-old Canadian remembered she had to stop because of her aching back. But she recalls the Swiss veteran taking the ball earlier and hitting harder.
But that was practice. The real thing happened Sunday. And Andreescu was all over her in an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 victory that puts the teenager in the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open.
Andreescu has rolled through the draw in impressive fashion so far. Her toughest test was the first one, against Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu – a former top 30 player whose ranking might be down, but whose quality remains high.
After losing the first set in a tiebreak, she won the next two. And then she routined No. 32 seed Dominika Cibulkova, a former Australian Open and Rogers Cup finalist and top-10 player.
Both those players have better resumés than Andreescu. But youth, confidence and current form are powerful equalizers.
In Voegele’s case, it was simply a difference in level.
Here’s what Andreescu had to say after the win.
Andreescu: a wild card gone wild
Andreescu is making great use of the wild card she was given into the tournament after reaching the semifinals at the WTA event in Acapulco the previous week.
On her ranking at the start of Indian Wells, she would have been in on her own merits. But there is a six-week advance deadline for entry.
The ranking points at this tournament are slow to come – only 65 points through the third round. But now, it gets exponential.
Andreescu will have gained three or four spots so far. But if she can defeat No. 18 seed Qiang Wang on Tuesday, she will surely jump into the top 50.
Wang is another player with a better resumé, but who is not in the same form that saw her leap into the top 20 last fall.
The 27-year-old Chinese player reached the third round of the Australian Open. But she didn’t play after that – until she entered the Oracle Challenger event the week before the main event at Indian Wells.
She didn’t win it. Wang lost to Viktorija Golubic in the semifinals. But her 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 win over No. 16 seed Elise Mertens in the third round this week was an impressive one.
Halep took notice
Andreescu’s idol – no surprise – is Romania’s Simona Halep.
The former (and perhaps future) No. 1 has always believed in Andreescu’s potential.
“I spoke to her a few years ago in Canada when we practiced once. I told her she has to stop playing juniors. She wanted to play more but I said she is ready go to the higher level. As we see, she’s doing great,” Halep said, per the WTA’s Insider.
“I think she’s running very well. I think she’s hitting the ball strong and she’s a good fighter, which gives her a better level. I’m sure she can improve a lot and be in the better ranking soon.”
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Is Bianca Andreescu on a roll in 2019?
Yes, ma’am, she sure is.
The 18-year-old Canadian posted a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over former top-10 player and No. 32 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia Saturday, to move into the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.
And there, instead of facing the “expected” opponent in No. 4 seed Sloane Stephens of the U.S., Andreescu will instead get qualifier Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland.
The winner of that plays the winner of No. 16 seed Elise Mertens and No. 18 seed, Qiang Wang of China.
When the No. 4 seed exits early, that section of the draw becomes a juicy opportunity for … somebody.
Cibulkova, who turns 30 in May, has kept her ranking in the top 40. And she’s missed just one major (the 2015 French Open) since the 2009 US Open. But she’s far from the force she once was.
There have been injuries. She has gotten married. Perhaps she’s at the stage where a little ennui has set in. She has contemporaries who have walked off the stage lately – Lucie Safarova, Elena Vesnina, Agnieszka Radwanska …
Her strength was always playing a “big babe” game despite some height limitations. And that takes a toll as well when you’re fighting an uphill battle every match.
Varied tactics, solid power
On Friday, the confident Andreescu changed the pace up on a regular basis. She mixed in slices, and high, looping balls. She was aggressive on return, and Cibulkova, who never got close to 100 mph with her first delivery, helped her in that.
She also stayed toe-to-toe with the Slovak in the hard-hitting rallies. But where Cibulkova seemed satisfied most of the time to go cross-court, it was Andreescu who was bold enough to change the direction and go down the line fairly regularly.
It took an hour and 23 minutes, but it was a comprehensive performance by the Canadian.
Here’s what she said about it.
On a hot streak
Cibulkova came into the desert having played just four matches so far this season. And she lost three of them.
When you add in qualifying matches, WTA 125K-level matches and Grand Slam and WTA main-draw matches – and Fed Cup – Andreescu is now 23-3 on the year.
Her first-round win over Irina-Camelia Begu was as impressive. Begu is currently ranked No. 70. But she has been as high as No. 22 in both singles and doubles and is just as tough an out.
Andreescu might not be one of the top players. But she is arguably the most in-form. And that confidence oozes out of every shot she hits. She’s liking the way she’s playing, with tactical variety. She’s thoroughly bought into it as a successful way to win a lot of tennis matches. And the results reflect that.
The 50-60 section of the WTA Tour rankings is pretty jam-packed, so Andreescu won’t be making a huge leap up with this third-round effort – or even a round-of-16 result, should she defeat Voegele.
But if you win this many matches, the ranking will take care of itself sooner rather than later.
A long way in 12 months
A year ago, during this second week of the BNP Paribas Open, Andreescu’s ranking had dropped, and she lost in the second round of a $25,000 ITF Circuit event in Japan to Dejana Radanovic of Serbia.
(We’d tell you what their rankings were at the time. Unfortunately, that information is currently unavailable on the WTA Tour’s website. Rinse. Repeat).
The next few months of 2018 were full of ups and downs and back issues. But this season has been a revelation for both Andreescu and her fellow 18-year-old Canadian on the men’s side, Félix Auger-Aliassime.
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The hard yards put in by 23-year-old Laslo Djere and 18-year-old Félix Auger-Aliassime down on the Brazilian red clay did not go unnoticed by the powers-that-be at the BNP Paribas Open.
Both received wild cards into the tournament’s main draw, which begins Wednesday.
For Auger-Aliassime, who was just outside the top 100 at the entry deadline for qualifying, it means he’ll have some wiggle room.
Eliminated Friday night in the quarterfinals by Djere, he’ll have at least four days to travel from Brazil, and quickly get acclimated to the dry air and the slow, gritty hard courts in the desert.
Bonus for Djere
For Djere, who had not even entered the qualifying and is still alive in San Paulo after winning the Rio 500 event last week over Auger-Aliassime in the final, it’s bonus time.
Ranked No. 92 at the main-draw deadline, he’d still be about 10 spots out of making the main draw. without the wild card, the alternative would have been to just go back to Europe.
Both, by their current career-high rankings, would easily have made it in. No doubt that weighed in the balance.
Opelka, Young and Donaldson are in
The other players on the men’s side who received wild cards include Reilly Opelka, Donald Young (currently ranked No. 214) and Jared Donaldson.
Donaldson is currently ranked No. 129. But he’s just returned from a six-month injury layoff. Opelka, whose ranking is at a career-high No. 58 after his first career title at the New York Open, would have made it in easily with that ranking. But he earned his way in with his efforts in the Oracle Challenger Series.
Young, who was a semifinalist at the Newport Beach Challenger during the second week of the Australian Open, also earned his wild card that way.
Anisimova, Vickery and Andreescu straight in
On the women’s side, six Americans received main-draw wild cards.
Among them are 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, who reached the fourth round at the Australian Open. But Anisimova hasn’t played much since then. Her only match was a retirement after seven games of the first set against Varvara Flink of Russia in the first round of Acapulco this week.
Sachia Vickery, Jennifer Brady (who is in the semis of the Oracle Challenger on site this week), Taylor Townsend and Madison Brengle are the other American recipients.
Jessica Pegula clinched one of the Oracle Series wild cards, and will make her second career appearance after qualifying all the way back in 2012, when she had just turned 18.
Another player who has had a great 2019 and whose current ranking would have allowed her to easily make the main draw is Canadian Bianca Andreescu.
The 18-year-old, currently ranked No. 71, is in the semifinals of the Acapulco WTA Tour event this week after being one of the last to make the main draw. She upset No. 4 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu and No. 7 seed Saisai Zheng and will face No. 5 seed Sofia Kenin Friday night.
Andreescu won the Oracle Challenger in Newport Beach last month. But as she’s not an American, she’s not eligible for the wild-card challenge.
Another wild card will go to the second-place finisher in the Oracle Challenger Series, still up for grabs.
Qualifying wild cards
For the women: Francesca Di Lorenzo, Allie Kiick and Catherine McNally received passes into the qualifying. Also in is Ashley Kratzer, the winner of the pre-qualifying tournament.
As well, 16-year-old Zoe Kruger of South Africa, who trains at the IMG Academy and is coached by Thomas Hogstedt, received a qualifying wild card. Hogtstedt and Indian wells tournament director Tommy Haas are very close; Hogstedt used to coach him. It’s all in who you know, sometimes.
There is one more women’s qualifying wild card to be announced.
For the men, Americans Christopher Eubanks, Marcos Giron, Mitchell Krueger and J.J. Wolf are into the qualifying. Evan Song, who won the pre-qualifying tournament, also receives a qualifying wild card.
Two match wins are needed to make the main draw.
The qualifying begins Monday, and the first-round main draw matches (the top 32 players have byes) begin Wednesday.
MELBOURNE, Australia – However many Grand Slam matches Canadian Bianca Andreescu wins in a career that’s still in its infancy, she’ll always remember this one.
It is the first, of course – her maiden Grand Slam main-draw victory.
But it was the way she did it that will remain engraved somewhere in her tennis psyche.
It’ll be a resource she can draw upon in the future. When she thinks she’s in a situation that seems hopeless, she’ll now know that there’s always hope.
The 7-6 (7), 6-7 (0), 6-3 victory over 16-year-old American Whitney Osuigwe took two hours and 46 minutes on a stifling hot day during which several male players had to retire.
Andreescu was struggling with cramps in her calfs, which required some treatment in the second set. Her back was acting up again, requiring a medical timeout after she broke Osuigwe to take the lead in the third set.
But the fight in the player overcame the challenges.
“All I can say is that it’s one of the toughest matches I’ve ever played and I’m so, so, SO happy I pulled through,” Andreescu said afterward. “I have no idea how I won today. My body was a mess – especially after the first set. I just fought.”
Hello, top 100
At a career high No. 106 in the WTA Tour rankings coming into the match, the victory will tick off another box.
Andreescu will break into the top 100 for the first time. In fact, she’ll be inside the top 90.
She was in shock when she heard that.
“No way. Oh my God,” she said. “I don’t know what to say. I’m just so happy.”
There’s more work to be done. On Thursday, Andreescu will meet No. 13 Anastasia Sevastova of Latvia for a spot in the third round.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the one-year anniversary of her turning professional and her debut at the Citi Open in D.C., 18-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu finds herself out of the tournament.
Andreescu received a wild card into the singles draw for the second consecutive year, and was to face Nao Hibino of Japan in the first round.
But a back issue flared up during the Granby Challenger. And it wasn’t helped by some tough tennis. And that is costing her a chance to play the far bigger WTA Tour event this week.
The No. 3 seed in Granby, Andreescu had issues even in the second round, where she defeated 15-year-old countrywoman Leylah-Annie Fernandez in a matched moved indoors.
She had the back looked at after the first set, despite winning it handily.
And then, she went off court for treatment on it during the second, during which she was down 2-4 before running the table to finish it off.
Here’s what it looked like. You can see that Andreescu was in periodic distress.
But the coup de grâce – not the good kind – came in the quarterfinals. Andreescu toughed out a 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 comeback win over Australian lefty Ellen Perez. It took two hours, 19 minutes in the heat and humidity.
But when it came time to play her semifinal against eventual champion Julia Glushko Saturday, Andreescu was a no-go.
Sacroiliac joint to blame
It’s not a new issue for Andreescu, more a recurring theme that has to be managed.
The consensus is that she won’t make it worse by playing. But Andeescu wants to play. But perhaps she has played too much.
The Canadian also ended up sick after the grass-court swing, which also set her back. She tried to play at the Winnipeg ITF event, but retired down 2-4 in the third set of her first-round match.
In Gatineau, Quebec last week, she also lost in the first round of singles. But she and Carson Branstine won the doubles event in her first attempt at doubles since January.
Quarter-final points go undefended
This first year in the pros has had some highs. But even though Andreescu is arguably a better player than she was a year ago, it’s not yet showing in the rankings.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint, though. And there aren’t many careers that go in a straight line to the top of the game.
After defeating Camila Giorgi and Kristina Mladenovic in the first two rounds in D.C. a year ago, she lost in three sets to Andrea Petkovic in the quarterfinals.
In mid-August, she stood at a career-high No. 143 in the singles rankings and seemed on her way.
Right now, Andreescu stands at No. 185. And that includes a pair of finals appearances during a swing through $25,000 ITF events in Japan in April after she had dropped to No. 221.
In fact, her doubles ranking (No. 150) has been higher than her singles ranking since last October, even though she’s only played two events this season.
Missing the Citi Open is going to hurt. The 60 points she was going to defend are nearly 20 per cent of her total, and her absence will drop her out of the top 200.
Even more key, though, is the Rogers Cup. Her home-country tournament, a Premier 5-level event, takes place the following week.
You would expect, if healthy, that Andreescu would get one of the three wild cards available to the Canadians. One is already assigned to Genie Bouchard; the other two will be distributed to Canadian No. 2 Carol Zhao, Andreescu, Françoise Abanda or even, possibly, the returning Rebecca Marino.
As of Monday, Andreescu will be the No. 3 ranked player in Canada, behind Bouchard and Zhao.
Andreescu got a Rogers Cup wild card last year, and lost 6-4, 6-1 to Timea Babos of Hungary in the first round.
MONTREAL – Canada’s World Group II Fed Cup playoff tie hadn’t even begun, when the first bad news hit.
No. 2 Françoise Abanda, already slowed a little by a knee issue, was doing some final warmup exercises just a few minutes before the teams were to take the court for the opening ceremony.
And then, she slipped and fell.
Abanda hit her head on the court. Immediately there were a half-dozen Tennis Canada personnel around her, everyone looking concerned.
It wasn’t long before the decision was made to put in 17-year-old Bianca Andreescu as a last-minute substitute. And Abanda – her head still hurting several hours later – went back into the locker room.
That’s a tough ask for anyone, never mind an inexperienced 17-year-old. Planning to sit courtside with some figurative popcorn, Andreescu expected to work out her cheering muscles and nothing else on Saturday.
Without a proper warmup, or eating at the right time, or all the myriad preparations that go into a match, she took on world No. 41 Lesia Tsurenko.
Andreescu played brilliantly, taking the first set. But by the middle of the second set, she began to tire. And by the beginning of the third set, you could see her shaking out her leg and trying to fight off cramps.
A few games later, she collapsed in a heap. A cramp that began in her calf moved up into the rest of her leg, and she was really in pain.
She was carted off the court in a wheelchair, forced to retire from the match.
Two down, Bouchard up next
It was left to Genie Bouchard to salvage a tie on the day.
And she did, with an impressive 6-2, 7-5 win over world No. 78 Kateryna Bondarenko. It was a victory that never felt as though it might get away from her, despite a couple of nervous moments when she was close to the finish line.
Here’s what it looked like.
Early in the match, Bouchard whacked her left hand on a towel display installed just to the left of her bench. Running at a good clip, she tried to brake, using the left hand, and was left in some pain.
She said that every backhand she hit for the rest of the match hurt – a lot.
But she could still joke with captain Sylvain Bruneau about there being “Three down, one to go.”
Here’s what she said about it.
The release from the ITF about Abanda’s injury said she had a “pero-orbital contusion” – medical speak for a black eye.
But she didn’t, even though the eye was swollen.
While the medical personnel were monitoring Abanda through the day, they certainly couldn’t rule out a concussion. And that’s scary, especially if there’s even a desire on Abanda’s part to try to play Sunday in the fourth singles rubber.
As for Andreescu, she’s likely to be awfully sore where the cramps hit.
And there’s no predicting how Bouchard’s hand will feel when she wakes up on Sunday morning.
Here’s Bruneau with the medical report.
Dabrowski to the rescue?
You would expect Bouchard to give it a go in the first match of the day Sunday against Tsurenko.
After that, Canada will either be in a position to clinch, or in a position where it needs a victory to stay alive.
Gabriela Dabrowski, a fine singles player but one who has put that discipline aside for the most part to focus on her top-10 doubles career, is ready to go in singles if needed.
If it gets to a fifth and deciding rubber, Bruneau may have no other options left but to put Bouchard and Dabrowski on for the doubles.
It may be a sleepless night for a few people on the Canadian side.
The Canadian received a wild card into the Rogers Cup main draw when Maria Sharapova withdrew. Otherwise, she’d have had to hustle home to play her first round of qualifying Saturday (or, at worse, potentially play two matches on Sunday) to try to get into the main draw.
So everything worked out well. Except the tournament laundry service, which shrunk some of her new Nike dresses and gave her a more, um, streamlined look on court for a couple of the matches.
Andreescu only brought six dresses with her. Luckily, she has plenty more at home.
It’s always key to feel good in your dress when you’re at your second debutante ball in a week.